More than half of Americans age 60 and over find Medicare confusing or don't understand it at all, according to a new survey released by the National Council on Aging and UnitedHealthcare.
Only one-third of respondents correctly identified Part A as the portion of Medicare that helps cover hospital care, and less than 25 percent knew that Part B helps cover the costs of doctor office visits. More than two-thirds did not know what Part C covers. Only 12 percent were aware that Part C helps cover hospital care, doctor visits and prescription drugs, and even fewer--7 percent--knew Part C is the same as Medicare Advantage insurance plans.
The results highlight the need for more education about Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors, the survey sponsors said. Over the next 20 years, an average of 10,000 baby boomers a day will turn 65 and become eligible.
The survey also showed seniors have a poor understanding of changes to Medicare this year that are a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal law that created health care reform. Only 12 percent said they have an excellent or good understanding of the law.
Starting this year, the annual enrollment period for Medicare begins Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7. In previous years, the enrollment period ran from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31. Only 9 percent of survey respondents could identify the correct start date, and just 3 percent could identify the new enrollment deadline.
Also starting in 2011, Medicare beneficiaries can get discounts of 50 percent on brand-name drugs and 7 percent on generic drugs if they fall into the Part D prescription drug coverage gap, known as the "doughnut hole."
Only 47 percent of respondents were aware of the coverage gap. Of those respondents, more than two-thirds were unaware of the new discounts.
The survey polled 1,000 seniors ages 65 and over and 500 baby boomers ages 60 to 64 as part of an ongoing partnership between the National Council on Aging and UnitedHealthcare. The joint venture is designed to help Medicare beneficiaries and baby boomers learn about their health care options in the years ahead.