nonelderly individuals. Among families living below the poverty level, elderly individuals reported more than $20,000 in family net wealth at the median, and the nonelderly reported zero. Among low-income families (between 100 and 199 percent of poverty), the median family net wealth for an elderly individual was about $77,000 compared with $2,300 for the nonelderly or about 33 percent times as much as that for a nonelderly individual.

Banthin emphasized that the MEPS asset data are comparable across various dimensions with which to assess data reported from the Survey of Income and Program Participation. Both surveys show underreporting of assets compared with the Survey of Consumer Finances, but as survey data go, these assets are reasonable. MEPS has data on both the elderly and the nonelderly and measures different categories of assets, so if there is underreporting, it is measured without bias across the two age groups.

Out-of-Pocket Burden

Banthin next discussed high out-of-pocket burdens for the elderly and the nonelderly using the cutoffs of 10 percent or more of family income on medical care. Overall, about 52 percent of elderly and 17 percent of nonelderly individuals have high burdens according to this threshold. Using the 10 percent of family income cutoff would more than triple the number of elderly having high burdens, and this persists across different poverty status groups. About 26 percent of elderly and 7 percent of nonelderly individuals live in families spending 20 percent or more on medical care. Spending actually goes up among the low-income elderly: 70 percent of them are spending more than 10 percent out-of-pocket compared with only 22 percent of the nonelderly. The poor elderly may be eligible for various programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare, so they may have more coverage than the low-income elderly.


Banthin observed that the self-employed population under age 65 does not have substantially higher burdens than their non-self-employed counterparts. They have slightly higher burdens than the non-self-employed (median burden of 3.3 compared with 2.9), but this difference is not large. The self-employed do report higher net family assets, and they also have higher levels of average income. These are net business assets at the family level.


Banthin concluded that further work is needed to refine the method of incorporating assets into income for elderly families. In her view, it is worth considering different thresholds for the elderly and the nonelderly

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