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Quarter of Americans at a Loss When Enrolling in Medicare Plans: Survey

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What You Need to Know

  • A sizable number of Americans do not sufficiently understand the health insurance they rely on for coverage.
  • Many Medicare-eligible Americans turn to licensed insurance agents for help with enrollment.
  • While 29% percent of respondents said they trust their doctor most as an information source on Medicare plans, only 3% used them as a source in choosing a plan.

As American seniors review Medicare Advantage applications, which are due March 31, a timely question is: How well do they understand these plans? Another question is how they use and trust sources of information about the plans in their buying decisions.

A recent survey showed that a sizable number of Americans do not sufficiently understand their health insurance.

MedicareGuide.com conducted the online survey in mid-February among 1,010 U.S. adults 65 and older with Medicare plans. 

The survey found that 29% of respondents did not fully understand their Medicare Advantage plans, and 23% did not fully understand their Medicare Supplement plans.

Given their lack of understanding, many Medicare-eligible Americans turn to agents for help with enrollment.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they relied on a licensed agent a lot, followed by 14% who said they used the internet and 8% who cited government information as their main source.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they trust their doctor most as a source of information on Medicare Advantage and Supplement plans, but only 3% used them as a source in selecting a plan.

Following are respondents’ most trusted sources of information:

  • My doctor: 29%
  • Licensed agent: 20%
  • Friends and family: 16%
  • Government information: 15%
  • Internet: 4%
  • TV: 1%
  • Email marketing: 1%
  • Telemarketing: 0%

The survey underscored the importance of trust in licensed insurance agents among plan shoppers. Fifty-two percent of Americans who signed up with Supplement or Advantage plans were enrolled by an agent. 

Twenty-nine percent of those with Supplement or Advantage plans said an agent had enrolled them in person, and 23% said an agent had enrolled for them by phone. 

And 29% said they had enrolled online themselves, while 8% enrolled by mail and 11% cited other methods.

Buying a Plan

Eighty-eight percent of respondents who signed up for Medicare Supplement or Advantage plans were the primary decision-maker in choosing a plan, according to the survey.

Eight percent said their spouse was the primary decision-maker, while less than 1% said either an adult child, another family member or a friend had made the decision.

When signing up, 82% of Americans 65 and older said they understood Medicare Supplement very or somewhat well, compared with 76% who said they understood Medicare Advantage very or somewhat well. 

Medicare Advantage came out on top in the survey in terms of ease of enrollment, with 59% of respondents saying it was easy to enroll in, while only 48% said the same about Medicare Supplement. 

MedicareGuide.com noted that Medicare Advantage applications are standardized and about two pages long, whereas Medicare Supplement applications vary by carrier and state, and nearly all are longer than 10 pages.

(Image: Shutterstock)

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