Age Differences

Middle-Aged Americans Most Concerned About Health Care

Middle-aged Americans (ages 35-54) and those nearing retirement age (ages 55-64) are more concerned about key elements of health care than are younger people (ages 20-34, the "young and invincibles") and Americans older than 65.

  • Middle-aged Americans are more likely to say health care has gotten worse over the last 5 years. Those between ages 45 and 54 are the most likely to indicate the health care system needs major changes (70 percent, compared with 44 percent of the "young and invincibles"), and are the most likely to strongly favor minimum levels of benefits (53 percent v. 38 percent of young Americans).
  • Americans between ages 35 and 44 express the least confidence in the health care they will receive over the next 10 years. They are particularly concerned about their freedom to choose their health care providers and the affordability of health care. They are also very concerned about the care they will receive under Medicare.
  • For the "young and invincibles," health care is only a blip on the radar screen (9 percent consider it the most critical issue). However, among Americans nearing retirement age (55-64), nearly three times as many people consider health care the most critical issue (25 percent).

Younger Americans More Hip on Managed Care

  • Americans younger than age 45 are most likely to identify their health plan as a managed care plan (69 percent v. 46 percent of those ages 45 and older). Many Americans older than age 45 believe they are in traditional health insurance plans (41 percent v. 23 percent of those younger than 45). Americans ages 35-44 report having a choice of health plans more often than others (66 percent v. 57 percent of all Americans).
  • Managed care receives very high marks from the "young and invincibles." Two-thirds rate the quality of care available under managed care as excellent, very good, or good (67 percent, compared with 47 percent of those ages 55-64). On other aspects, younger Americans consistently give managed care higher ratings than older Americans.

Generation Gap: Younger Americans Favor Regulation More

  • When considering the uninsured, younger Americans are more likely to favor several types of government regulation, including increases in taxes.
  • In order to ensure access to health insurance for everyone, younger Americans are the most likely to prefer a tax on health insurance companies (67 percent favor it, compared with 57 percent of all Americans). While 7 in 10 young Americans favor allowing the uninsured to buy into Medicare (72 percent), significantly fewer older Americans (ages 65 and older) favor this proposal (53 percent).
  • When forced to choose, older Americans (ages 65 and older) are more likely than those younger to favor increasing the Medicare eligibility age to 67. Americans under 65 are more likely to indicate they would prefer an increase in out-of-pocket costs under Medicare or an increase in payroll taxes.

Source: 1998 Health Confidence Survey.