This paper investigates the issue of who pays the health care bills of the elderly by considering the types of subsidized health insurance protection enjoyed by the noninstitutionalized elderly and the way that increased Medicare cost-sharing efforts in the 1980s are affecting those without additional health insurance subsidies. In making this examination we estimate the out-of-pocket health care expenditures of the elderly either directly or as nonsubsidized medigap premiums by income level, taking into account four types of health insurance subsidies received by elderly persons: Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Administration health care, and subsidized health insurance from either current or former employers. We find that increased cost sharing is likely to fall most heavily on those elderly least likely to afford it: the poor and near-poor elderly who have only Medicare as a health insurance subsidy, particularly those who are older and sicker and who use Medicare services more heavily. These persons are caught between well-intentioned federal cost-cutting efforts and die often confusing panoply of health insurance programs for the aged, and they will bear an inequitably large portion of any future Medicare cost-sharing initiatives.

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