The National Council on Aging (NCOA) and UnitedHealthcare recently released the results of a study that revealed that a large percentage of baby boomers and seniors ages 65 and over do not understand Medicare and are unaware of important recent or impending changes to the program.
The study results confirmed the need for more education regarding the nation’s largest health insurance program, even more so because over the next two decades tens of millions of people will be added to the program. Over the next 20 years, an average of 10,000 boomers a day will turn 65 and become eligible.
UnitedHealthcare and NCOA surveyed 1,000 seniors ages 65 and over and 500 “leading-edge” baby boomers ages 60 to 64 to gauge their understanding of the Medicare program. The survey was conducted as part of an ongoing partnership between the two organizations to help Medicare beneficiaries, their caregivers and baby boomers learn more about their health-care options now and in the years ahead.
More than half of survey respondents find Medicare confusing or do not understand it at all, and most do not understand the program’s structure. Only a third correctly identified Part A as helping to cover the costs of hospital care. Less than 25 percent knew that Part B helps cover the costs of a doctor visit, and more than two-thirds did not know what Part C covers. Only 12 percent were aware that Part C helps cover the costs of hospital care, doctor visits and prescription drugs, and even fewer, 7 percent, knew that Part C is synonymous with Medicare Advantage.
The confusion about Medicare is not limited to the program’s structure. Nineteen percent of respondents who reported being enrolled in Medicare said they do not know what type of coverage they have.
There was also confusion found dealing with the dates of Annual Election Period (AEP). In previous years, the AEP began November 15 and ended December 31. This year, it starts a month earlier, on October 15, and ends December 7. Only 9 percent of survey respondents were able to identify the new start date, with even fewer respondents (3 percent) correctly identifying the new enrollment deadline. The majority (63 percent) believe beneficiaries continue to have until Dec. 31 to make an enrollment decision.
One of the most important findings was the respondents were unaware of the new cost-saving opportunities. More than a third of respondents ages 65 and over who are enrolled in Medicare are spending $1,000 or more out of pocket each year on their health-care costs. The survey found that a significant portion of respondents (29 percent) are worried about their ability to pay out-of-pocket health-care costs, yet most who are enrolled in Medicare are not taking steps to save money on their coverage.
Although the majority of respondents (58 percent) described their ability to evaluate and choose the best Medicare coverage to meet their health and financial needs as excellent or good, nearly half reported that they have never shopped around to find the best coverage for them. About another 25 percent of respondents have not shopped in two or more years.
The survey also found that the majority of potentially eligible Medicare beneficiaries are not taking advantage of important programs that could help them better afford their health care. Of the 36 percent of respondents ages 65 and over who would qualify for assistance with their Medicare costs based on their income, more than two thirds (68 percent) had never heard of the Medicare Savings Programs, which help people with limited income pay some or all of their premiums, deductibles and coinsurance.
UnitedHealthcare and NCOA are leveraging their partnership to help simplify the often complex nature of becoming a Medicare beneficiary. UnitedHealthcare and NCOA are hosting a series of educational meetings at senior and community centers across the country and distributing public service announcements for TV and radio stations nationwide to raise awareness of resources to help boomers and beneficiaries learn more about Medicare.
Complete survey results and more information about the partnership between UnitedHealthcare and NCOA can be found at www.NCOA.org/Medicare .
This information was provided by The National Council on Aging (NCOA) and UnitedHealthcare
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