(November 2000) Nearly all older Americans (99 percent in 1998) are covered by health insurance. Most (97 percent of those 65 and older) are covered under Medicare, a federal program created in 1965 that covers the premiums for hospitalization, physician services, and other selected health services. Sixty-three percent of older people also have private health insurance to pay for services that Medicare does not cover, or for which there is only partial coverage. Private insurance coverage is more common among older whites (67 percent) than among older blacks (38 percent), Asians and Pacific Islanders (42 percent), or Hispanics (28 percent).
Despite nearly universal insurance coverage, households headed by older people still have substantial out-of-pocket expenses for health care. In 1997, the poorest 20 percent of households headed by older Americans spent 13 percent of their total expenditures on health care, while the richest 20 percent of households allocated 9 percent of total expenditures to health care.
Most of the data, charts, and graphs on the older population are based on tabulations from the Census Bureau’s March Current Population Survey (CPS).