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Bankers Life: Retirees Still Skimping on Screenings

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Many middle-income U.S. residents ages 47 to 75 say they are taking to active steps to improve their health, but only about half of those eligible for Medicare checkup benefits are getting the checkups.

Analysts at the Center for a Secure Retirement, an arm of Bankers Life and Casualty Company, Chicago, have reported that finding in a summary of results from a survey of 800 retirees and near retirees with incomes between $25,000 and $75,000. The sample included 400 people who were already ages 65 to 75.

Many near retirees said they are basing decisions about when to retire on when they will be eligible for Medicare, and about 81% of retirees said they are very satisfied or extremely satisfied with their Medicare coverage.

Only 46% of the near retirees — who, in most cases, have private coverage, or no coverage — said they are very or extremely satisfied with their health coverage.

But only 8% of the retirees with Medicare said they have an extremely good understanding of their benefits, and one-third have trouble describing the features of the traditional Medicare program.

Only 42% of the retirees — 47% of the women and 32% of the men — said they have used the new annual wellness visit benefit.

A provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) made the benefit available Jan. 1, 2011. The Medicare wellness benefit went life at the same time as the minimum medical loss ratio  provision and a Medicare Part D drug discount provision took effect.

Some people may get screenings through other avenues, such as community health fairs, for example, but only 65% of the women said they had had a breast cancer screening in the past 12 months, and just 30% said they had had a cervical cancer screening.