Extend Health Survey: 3 Out Of 4 Seniors On Medicare Describe Medicare As Difficult To Understand

In a survey of 516 seniors on Medicare, 75% 1 said that the task of understanding Medicare when they turned 65 and became eligible for coverage was “somewhat difficult,” “very difficult,” “impossible without help,” or that they “still don’t understand original Medicare” as well as they would like. 59% of respondents said they performed research or sought advice before signing up. But just 39% of respondents reported they were satisfied with what they knew about Medicare at that time, and 16% said they wished they’d had estimates of what their out-of-pocket expenses were going to be based on the coverage choices they made.

When asked what was the single most important thing to know when making decisions about Medicare coverage, the top choice was whether they could use the doctors and hospitals they prefer to use, selected by 29% of respondents.

The survey asked seniors on Medicare about their personal experiences when signing up for Medicare for the first time – and any advice they might have for others turning 65. The survey was fielded from August 19–20, 2012 by Extend Health, operator of the nation’s largest private Medicare exchange. The company has been surveying seniors on their attitudes about retirement, health care and Medicare since December 2009. Extend Health is a Towers Watson company.

Said Bryce Williams, founder of Extend Health and Managing Director of Exchange Solutions for Towers Watson, “Understanding Medicare and various coverage options can be confusing. In addition to signing up for original Medicare, seniors can purchase private Medicare Advantage or Medigap plans to fill gaps in what original Medicare covers. This adds another layer of complexity to their choices.”

Added Williams, “The takeaway for seniors turning 65 this year – or for seniors already on Medicare making decisions to change or renew their coverage options during the upcoming annual enrollment period – is that it’s important to have the right information to make sure you have the right coverage based on your health needs and desires.”

Seniors turning 65 can sign up for Medicare three months prior to their 65 th birthday. For seniors already on Medicare, the 2013 annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP) runs from October 15–December 7, 2012.

Questions and detailed results from the survey are as follows

How would you describe the task of understanding original Medicare?
Not difficult at all 25.0%                  
Somewhat difficult, but manageable 54.8%
Very difficult 8.9%
Impossible without help 2.9%

I still don’t understand it as well as I would like to


Did you do research or seek advice from anyone about Medicare before you signed up?
Yes 58.7%
No 41.3%

What is the single most important thing you wish you had known more about when you signed up for Medicare coverage?

Nothing – I am satisfied with what I knew when I signed up

Estimate of what my out-of-pocket expenses would be based on the coverage choices I made

How much Medicare premiums increase over time

How Medicare Advantage plans work and what they cover

How original Medicare works and what it covers
What original Medicare does not cover 6.7%

How private Medigap (Medicare supplement) plans work and what they cover

How Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) plans work and what they cover

What do you think is the single most important thing to know when making decisions about which Medicare coverage is right for you?

Ability to use the doctors and hospitals you prefer to use
Benefits and services covered 18.5%

Estimate of what your out-of-pocket expenses will be based on the coverage choices you make
Cost of deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance 10.4%
Cost of premiums 7.1%

Choice of (Medicare Advantage or Medigap) plans in your area

Quality of (Medicare Advantage or Medigap) plans in your area

Quality of ongoing service and support of (Medicare Advantage or Medigap) plans in your area

Benefits and services when you are in another state or out of the country

Whether the prescription drugs you take are covered

Extend Health has helped hundreds of thousands of seniors compare and choose private Medicare plans. Extend Health is the only place seniors can compare thousands of plans from more than 75 carriers side by side and find plans that best meet their needs. Licensed benefit advisors are available to help seniors evaluate their Medicare coverage and explore new options quickly and easily by calling 1-866-322-2824 toll free.

About Extend Health

Founded in 2004, Extend Health operates the largest private Medicare exchange in the country. Extend Health is a Towers Watson company. (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW) For more information, visit Extend Health on the web at http://www.extendhealth.com.

Extend Health is a registered trademark of Extend Health, Inc. Other names may be trademarks or servicemarks of their respective owners.

1 For top line reporting purposes, Extend Health rounds percentages up or down as appropriate.

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