Morning Consult survey: high out-of-pocket costs causing concern for seniors

Seniors on Medicare are worried about the price they pay for their prescription drugs—particularly those who are paying more than $200 a month.

And it doesn’t stop at worries. Since the start of 2021, many seniors have made lifestyle changes and tough financial decisions in order to afford out-of-pocket costs for their prescription drugs.

In a recent poll, conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the PAN Foundation, 75 percent of seniors on Medicare reported that they cannot afford to pay more than $200 for their prescriptions each month. About 35 percent of seniors with high out-of-pocket prescription drug costs—$200 or more each month—had difficulty paying for their medications.

Not surprisingly, the cost of prescriptions was the top concern of seniors. This was consistent with survey data from Morning Consult in 2020.

In the first two months of 2021, about a third of seniors on Medicare reduced spending on non-essential activities in order to pay for their medications, according to this year’s survey. The beginning of the year is a difficult financial period for seniors, who often face high out-of-pocket costs after their deductibles reset in January. When asked about what specific areas they cut back on, nearly 20 percent of seniors said they reduced spending on everyday purchases, including groceries and transportation.

More than 10 percent of seniors shared that they took on credit card debt to afford prescriptions.

Among all seniors surveyed, about a third reported concerns about their total out-of-pocket responsibility for the year, with about 10 percent sharing that they were not confident they would be able to pay for their medications for the full year.

Seniors on Medicare continue to have huge concerns about high out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter. Medicare beneficiaries are the only group of insured people in the U.S. that are not protected by a cap on annual out-of-pocket costs, forcing many to make difficult trade-offs or to forgo treatment altogether.

Congress must act now to reform the Medicare Part D program, which is long overdue.

Passage of legislation that places a cap on the Medicare Part D program and helps patients by “smoothing” out costs throughout the year is urgently needed.  The impact on patients would be considerable.

Read the full survey results

Editor’s note: Morning Consult conducted this research on behalf of the PAN Foundation.

Learn more about our policy recommendations

To read more about strategies to increase healthcare access and affordability, including how putting a cap on and smoothing out-of-pocket costs will help Medicare Part D beneficiaries, visit