The Senior Citizens League 

Report highlights retirees' heavy healthcare costs


January 1, 2021

Sixty-six percent of retirees report spending more than $375 a month on healthcare costs, according to a recent survey by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL).

“That figure is almost one quarter of the average $1,523 per month Social Security benefit in 2020 and more than the Medicare Trustees estimate for 2020,” says Mary Johnson, a Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League. Even worse, of that group, 31 percent of survey participants said they spend more than $1,000 a month on total healthcare costs — roughly two-thirds of the average Social Security benefit.

“These findings are particularly troubling considering that the Government Accountability Office estimated in 2019 that 48 percent of households aged 55 and older have no retirement savings or other form of pension outside of Social Security,” Johnson says. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced that the standard Medicare Part B for 2021 will be $148.50, an increase of $3.90 per month.

This Part B increase comes at the same time retirees will receive one of the lowest COLAs ever paid, that will increase the average Social Security benefit by only $20 per month. Because Medicare Part B premiums and out-of-pocket costs grow several times faster than annual cost of living adjustments (COLAs), healthcare costs take a rapidly growing share of Social Security benefits. The situation can leave older households without adequate income and dwindling savings after just a few years in retirement.

For years, the Medicare Trustees have warned about the problem in their annual report. They’ve estimated that Medicare Part B and Part D premiums, as well as cost sharing for both programs, currently equals 24 percent of the level of the average Social Security benefit. But the Senior Citizens League’s findings include common retiree healthcare costs not included in the Trustees’ estimate.

The survey, which was conducted online, asked how much survey participants spent per month on all healthcare costs. Participants were asked to include premiums for Medicare Part B, Medigap, Part D and Medicare Advantage plans, as well as all out-of-pocket spending on doctor visits and services, co-pays and co-insurance for prescription drugs, dental and optical exams, glasses and hearing aids. 

The responses were compiled in each of five spending points:

Less than $375: 34% (24 percent of the average $1,523 Social Security benefit.)

$376-$495: 13%

$496-$750: 13%

$751-$1,000: 9%

More than $1,000: 31%

“These findings are a huge red flag that the standard of living of older Americans is eroding, and this is true not only for lower income households, but for all retirees,” says Johnson.

The Senior Citizens League is a Washington D.C.-based senior advocacy organization. For details, visit


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