Survey Finds Widespread Confusion, Frustration About Medicare
Medicare recipients and those who are new to the system often find enrollment confusing and avoid changing plans because researching alternatives is too difficult for them, according to a new poll.
The poll by digital platform Healthpilot, "Hidden Crisis: The Medicare Enrollment Maze," found that the initial Medicare plan enrollment process as well as subsequent enrollments present challenges for enrollees.
Many people, the survey of 1,142 individuals older than 64 found, were also confused about Medicare's basic components and how it works, and they feel overwhelmed by the marketing onslaught of marketing material, sales calls and advertising.
Another finding: Most seniors fail to review their plan options on an annual basis and many people never change Medicare Advantage or supplement plans once they choose one.
That's a big mistake, as most people's health care needs change as they age, and they may fail to notice that their doctor or favorite health care facility is suddenly no longer in their plan's network. "As a result, seniors are increasingly re-enrolling in plans that fail to reflect and support their evolving health care needs," the report states.
Here are some of the report's main findings:
- 20% of Medicare-eligible individuals have a good understanding of Original Medicare; only 31% have a good understanding of Medicare Advantage.
- 63% are overwhelmed by Medicare advertising; only 31% "strongly agree" that they can make effective selection decisions.
- 58% stay in their current Medicare plan each year, rather than reviewing their plan options and enrolling in the best one for their evolving needs.
- 40% shop around for plans every year.
- 33% have a financial advisor, but only 2% use that advisor to help with plan selection.
When asked to identify why they don't shop for new plans, many respondents said they were extremely frustrated with the process and options.
According to the report, one respondent stated, "I don't understand any of my options for Medicare and have no one to discuss it with." Another said, "I don't understand any of this and it seems everyone is trying to screw me."
The Healthpilot survey also asked respondents what their top priorities were when searching for a plan. These leading factors emerged:
- Making sure prescription drugs are covered (83% said this was a key factor).
- Making sure doctors are in network (81%).
- Making sure pharmacy is covered (74%).
- Seeing if they can get a lower premium (65%).
Why the findings are important
An earlier study by UnitedHealthcare found that health care "literacy" about Medicare has a significant impact on medical spending as well as health outcomes.
For example, people who have higher health care literacy are more apt to get flu shots as well as take advantage of free preventative medicine services such as regular colonoscopies. They also have lower rates of emergency department visits, hospital readmissions and unnecessary hospitalizations.
Not only were their health outcomes better, but their health care spending levels were also lower compared to Medicare beneficiaries in counties with lower health literacy. Beneficiaries with higher health literacy had 13% lower health care spending, UnitedHealthcare found.
We can help you do an annual evaluation of your plan and plan options to:
- Make sure you are in the best plan for your health and life circumstances,
- Reduce the chances that a lack of coverage prevents you from getting the care you need, and
- Help keep your health care spending within your budget.