Medicare is an often confusing subject. It doesn't help the biased advertisements and television commercials highlighting the most minor but exciting portions of the plan. Many Medicare beneficiaries don't understand how their Medicare coverage works, what benefits are included, or what their costs will be when using the program.
More than 750 Medicare beneficiaries over the age of 65 participated in a survey performed by Medigap.com to determine how well they understood Medicare and the options that go along with it. The results were staggering. Many of these beneficiaries didn't really understand the coverage and benefits that they were provided by their plans.
Regarding understanding their plans, under 20% answered that they were familiar with the coverage. Approximately 10% of the individuals that answered the poll were utterly in the dark about how their Medicare programs work.
26% of the beneficiaries that were polled said they are only somewhat familiar with the coverage provided by their plan. When asked how well they felt their Medicare coverage handled the essentials, about 31% said they didn't feel their required medical needs were met.
These are definitely issues our Medicare beneficiaries should not have to worry about. There's no doubt there is a lot to remember regarding Medicare coverage. Perhaps a simplification of benefits and what's covered needs to be worked into the educational process.
When the participants were asked if they had considered changing plans, nearly 80% said they would consider changing plans. Another eye-opening statistic was the number of people that despite having medical insurance, were concerned about the cost of their medical expenses. Almost 60% were worried about medical bills.
As we age, our medical needs change, and it's important to maintain coverage that adequately meets your needs. It's wild that 27% of those included in the survey felt their plans don't cover their essential needs. Even more concerning is about 13% elected to not have medical services due to being unsure if the procedures would be covered.
Many Medicare plans center on preventive care, early detection, and treatment of health-related problems. This helps to keep health care costs down by addressing these situations as soon as possible and starting treatments to sustain and increase health.
The survey participants were asked what they wished their plans did better. The most significant response was that they felt dental coverage was inadequate. This was indicated by nearly 75% of the participants. Following dental, about 52% felt the vision coverage was lacking, and 43% said that hearing coverage was insufficient.
Dental, vision, and hearing coverage are the most significant yearly concerns. Original Medicare doesn't cover these benefits unless it's due to a medically needed situation or condition. Many beneficiaries want these benefits, which are an essential part of aging gracefully.
When looking into your coverage options, it's wise to go in with a checklist of what your needs are and what items are essential.
For beneficiaries that go to the doctor often, they may consider if it's necessary to keep their doctors or if lower costs when visiting a healthcare provider are more important.
Another item that's very important for us as we age is the prescription drugs that help us maintain our health. Ensure your agent enters all of your scripts in and checks to ensure you have the best coverage for what you're taking.
Others may be very healthy and want to save the most on their plans. In these cases, the doctors may not matter as much as the reoccurring costs such as premiums. Everyone has different needs, so it's important not to get caught up in what someone else is enrolled in but which plan fits your individual needs and concerns.
This survey shows a definite need for improvement in the education surrounding Medicare. There are many different sources of information, some more credible than others, but all people understand and learn differently. There appears to be a need for continuing education programs to keep individuals on Medicare updated with changes. In addition, an outreach to let beneficiaries know the instruction is available would also be beneficial.
If you have a plan and don't understand how it works or if you're questioning if it's the best for your needs, you should seek out help from a licensed insurance agent or broker. Working with someone representing multiple plans will help ensure you're not being sold on a product but being adequately presented with your options.
Many beneficiaries feel their plans are lacking and don't understand how they work or what their plan covers. This can be an easy fix, but it needs to be a concentrated effort across all levels of the Medicare program. From more clearly outlined benefits by the insurance companies to agents taking a few more minutes with their clients to ensure they understand how to use their coverage. If everyone does their part, we can help ensure that Medicare beneficiaries are confident in their plans and what they cover.
About the Author
Lindsay Malzone is a Medicare expert for Medigap.com. She's been contributing to many well-known publications as an industry expert since 2017. Her passion is educating Medicare beneficiaries on all their supplemental Medicare options so they can make an informed decision on their healthcare coverage.