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SSDI Assessment

Baby Boomers Poised to Benefit Most from Medicare, National Survey Finds

Overall, seniors report low confidence in healthcare coverage if their health changes; doctor access is top concern, according to Allsup study

Belleville, Ill. - October 4, 2011 - Younger seniors and baby boomers are more engaged in their Medicare coverage and more willing to make changes to ensure it meets their needs, according to a national survey of seniors enrolled in Medicare. The Allsup Medicare Advisor Seniors Survey, commissioned by Allsup and conducted by Richard Day Research (RDR), indicates age is a primary driver of attitudes toward current Medicare coverage, future intentions of changing plans and active use of free preventive care services. Allsup is a nationwide provider of Medicare plan selection and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) representation services.

"People who've recently enrolled in Medicare are more critical and informed about their Medicare coverage," said Paul Gada, personal financial planning director for Allsup. He directs Allsup Medicare Advisor®, an impartial nationwide Medicare plan selection service. "They are more likely to change if they're not happy with their coverage and more likely to take advantage of free healthcare services available to them."

In fact, the Allsup Medicare Advisor Seniors Survey of 900 individuals shows important differences among younger seniors (ages 65-69) and older seniors, including that younger seniors are:

  • Less satisfied with coverage. Only 58 percent of those under 70 years of age were very satisfied with their Medicare coverage compared to 72 percent of those 80 years of age or older.
  • More willing to change coverage. Most seniors don't plan to change Medicare plans during the next year. However, 48 percent of those under age 70 are not ruling out a change, compared to 38 percent who are age 80 and older.
  • More frequently changing coverage. In just the few years that those under 70 years of age have been eligible for Medicare, 18 percent have already changed plans.
  • Nearly twice as likely to review their plan. Forty percent of seniors under age 70 have reviewed their current Medicare plan in the past 12 months, compared to just 22 percent of those 80 years of age or older.
  • More likely to take advantage of preventive services under Medicare. Forty percent of seniors under age 70 already have used at least one of the preventive services now offered under Medicare at no additional cost. Additionally, 63 percent of those under 70 who have not used a preventive service said they plan to do so in the next year. In comparison, only 34 percent of those 80 or older have used a free preventive service, and only 44 percent of those who have not done so said they plan to in the next year. Examples of these preventive services include annual wellness exams, cardiovascular screenings, flu shots, medical nutritional therapy and glaucoma tests.

"Whether it's a generational issue - with baby boomers being more persistent - or it's simply that people become less engaged and more tolerant of the status quo over time, younger seniors do appear to be poised to benefit more, so long as they continue to remain involved with their Medicare coverage," Gada said.

Key Findings: Low Confidence if Health Worsens; Access to Doctors Top Priority

The Allsup Medicare Advisor Senior Survey polled seniors of all ages about a range of Medicare topics. Top survey findings, across all seniors, include:

  • Generally high satisfaction with coverage. Sixty-five percent of seniors are very satisfied with their coverage. Their highest satisfaction levels are based on the acceptance of their Medicare plan by the doctors they want to see (88 percent). In addition, 80 percent believe their benefits are worth the money they spend on premiums.
  • Low confidence in coverage if health worsens. Despite strong satisfaction with their current coverage, many seniors are not as confident in their coverage if their health worsens. In fact, only 39 percent are very confident their current Medicare plan would provide the coverage needed if their health worsened.

    "The low confidence levels people have in their plans' ability to cover them if their health worsens indicates people are putting their healthcare - and potentially their finances - at risk," Gada said. "If they aren't confident in their coverage, they should ask for help now, rather than waiting until their health worsens and find they're stuck in a plan that doesn't provide the coverage they need."

  • Doctor/specialist acceptance is the most important factor in a good plan and biggest barrier to changing plans. According to 43 percent of seniors-the most important part of a good plan is that it is accepted by enough doctors and specialists. Similarly, 31 percent report making sure doctors take their coverage is the biggest challenge in changing plans.
  • Most don't plan to change coverage. Despite low confidence in coverage if their health were to worsen, more than one-half of seniors (56 percent) report they are definitely keeping their current coverage. When seniors do make changes, the most common reason was premiums were too high (27 percent). Discontinued plans (15 percent) and high co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses (11 percent) were the next most common reasons.
  • Few seniors review their coverage and few have help in doing so. Only 29 percent of seniors say they have reviewed their Medicare plan in the past 12 months. Overall, 41 percent of seniors receive no help when reviewing their Medicare coverage. Among those who have received help, 39 percent rely on a spouse or partner, 22 percent on an adult child, 20 percent on a doctor or healthcare professional, 16 percent on an employer or former employer, and 14 percent on friends. (Participants could select more than one.)

"It's important everyone knows their options and that they can get help choosing a plan," Gada said. "This is true for people new to Medicare. But it's also very important that older adults who haven't reviewed their coverage take another look. Expert help is available and can provide cost savings and benefits no matter someone's age or medical circumstances."

Medicare & the Ages

The Allsup Medicare Advisor Senior Survey looked specifically at the opinions and actions of three different age groups of Medicare beneficiaries: those age 65-69, 70-79, and 80 and older, with the following highlights by age group:

65- to 69-year-olds

This group is least satisfied with their current Medicare coverage, least likely to believe their benefits are worth the cost (72 percent of those ages 65-69 v. 80 percent of all seniors) and least confident that their coverage will prove adequate if their health worsens (37 percent v. 39 percent all seniors). Nearly one in five (18 percent) say they have already changed their Medicare coverage at least once, and they are more open than older respondents to changing it in the next 12 months. (Only 52 percent will definitely keep their coverage v. 56 percent of all seniors.) They also are, by far, the most likely to have reviewed their plan in the last 12 months (40 percent v. 29 percent of all seniors).

70- to 79-year-olds

In many ways, this group is in between the more active younger seniors and the least active oldest seniors. Most in this group are very satisfied with their current coverage (66 percent), especially that it is accepted by their current doctor (89 percent). They are similar to younger seniors in that fewer than 40 percent are very confident that their coverage will be enough if their health worsens. Similar to younger seniors, 17 percent of 70- to 79-year-olds report ever changing their Medicare coverage, though they would have had more years as Medicare beneficiaries to do so. Unlike younger beneficiaries, they are much less likely to have reviewed their plan (26 percent) recently.

80-year-olds and older

This group is characterized by a lack of activity and knowledge related to their Medicare coverage. The oldest participants are by far the most satisfied with their current coverage (72 percent are very satisfied), and they are the most confident that Medicare will provide the coverage they need if their health worsens (43 percent). However, only 22 percent have reviewed their plan in the last 12 months, and 62 percent will definitely keep their current plan. They are the least likely to have used any preventive Medicare services (34 percent) and the least likely to do so in the future (44 percent who may). In comparison, 40 percent of 65- to 69-year-olds have used preventive services and 43 percent of 70- to 79-year-olds have used preventive services.

About the Allsup Medicare Survey

The Allsup Medicare Advisor Survey was a telephone survey of 900 randomly selected seniors 65 years of age and older who have Medicare coverage. It was conducted between June 15-28, 2011, by Richard Day Research, an independent market research firm based in Evanston, Ill. The survey is subject to a +/- 3 percent margin of error.

ABOUT ALLSUP

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, visit http://www.Allsup.com.

The Allsup Medicare Advisor is an impartial Medicare plan selection service that helps people understand and choose the most affordable and appropriate Medicare coverage for their healthcare needs. (Allsup is not a Medicare plan provider and does not accept commissions from insurance providers.)

The information provided is not intended as a substitute for legal or other professional services. Legal or other expert assistance should be sought before making any decision that may affect your situation.

Editor's Note: Details on the Allsup Medicare Advisor Survey are available at

http://www.allsup.com/media/files/AMA-Seniors-Survey-Oct2011.pdf.

Contact:  
Mary Jung Rebecca Ray
773-429-0940 800-854-1418 ext 65065