Baby Boomer Confusions About Medicare Soars as Enrollment Date Looms

As the days on the calendar grow closer to the start of the Medicare enrollment period on October 15, the newest wave of Baby Boomers turning 65 say that they are unprepared.

A recent study conducted by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and United Healthcare reveals that a large numbers of seniors don’t understand Medicare and are unaware of recent changes. The findings highlight the need for more education regarding Medicare. This becomes all the more pertinent as over 10,000 people are turning 65 and becoming eligible daily. In the next twenty years tens of millions will sign up for Medicare, whether or not they not what they are doing.
“There’s just so many options,” says Laura Mckenzie a native of Rockville, Md. “B, C, or D I have no idea what plan I would even need or who to call about my questions.”

Mckenzie is not alone, more than half of the survey’s respondents didn’t understand Medicare’s structure. More worrisome is the fact that only a third correctly identified Part A as covering hospital care and less than 25 percent understood that Part B covers doctor visits. But, the confusion isn’t relegated to just Medicare’s structure as 19 percent reported they don’t even know what coverage they have.

“Without a solid grasp of the basics of Medicare, older adults are not well-positioned to understand their options and find the coverage that best meets their needs,” said Jim Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging. The surveys findings reveal that Medicare beneficiaries are not receiving the necessary information, or if they are it is simply not sticking.

“I called the government’s phone number to have some questions answered and they put me on hold for 15 minutes,” says Mckenzie. “The person didn’t understand my question and I’m just as confused as I was when I started.”

More than a year after President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many older adults still remain unaware of the most significant changes. The change in the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) affects all beneficiaries. Previously, the AEP began on November 15, but now it’s a month earlier. It now begins October 15 and ends December 7. During the AEP beneficiaries are able to choose or change their supplemental insurance, including Medigap plans that cover hospitalization deductibles, and Part D plans that cover prescription drugs. Less than 10 percent of the survey respondents identified the correct date and the majority still believe they have until December 31 to file.

What is more concerning is that many Medicare confusion is costing seniors, who are worried about their ability to pay out of pocket, many opportunities to save money. Many of the survey’s respondents claimed that they didn’t shop around for the best coverage because they didn’t think that it would help them save money. Some even claim that they are indifferent to the whole process.

“As a Baby Boomer I feel that we approached every stage of our life differently and how we deal with Medicare will also be the same,” says Mckenizie. Regardless, the date is fast approaching and seniors will need to access information to make more informed choices about their future.

-Suzanne Bernard

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