Boomers are nervous, indifferent or uneducated about Medicare.
Ten thousand boomers a day are eligible for Medicare, the largest growth ever in the history of the program.
A recent study by United Healthcare and the National Council on Aging says that more than half of seniors over age 60 find Medicare confusing or they don’t understand it at all.
Most respondents were not able to accurately identify what each part of Medicare covers.
Only a third correctly identified Part A as helping to cover hospital care. Less than a quarter knew that Part B helps to cover doctor visits. More than two-thirds did not know that Part C offers an all-in-one program that helps cover hospital care, doctor visits and prescription drugs. And half had not heard of the “doughnut hole” in Part D prescription drug coverage.
Nineteen percent of those enrolled in the program did not even know what kind of coverage they had.
These facts are alarming.
Oftentimes boomers are helping their parents and other loved ones enroll in Medicare despite lacking a solid understanding of the program themselves.
In an economy where every penny counts, being unaware of the details of the Medicare program can result in overspending.
According to the poll, almost half of the respondents have never shopped for better Medicare coverage because many (41 percent) thought they couldn’t save money.
A majority were also unaware of extra benefits available for vulnerable seniors such as Medicare Savings Programs, which help people with limited income pay for some or all of their Medicare costs, and Extra Help, which helps pay for prescription drug costs.
There are currently 33 different Part D prescription drug coverage plans in our geographic area.
Every senior should review their Part D decisions annually because the providers and plan structures can and do change, as do monthly premiums, the co-pays, the drug formularies of each of the providers and the assignment of a particular drug to a co-pay tier (within each provider and plan).
Each of these changes can impact a senior’s pocketbook.
According to the study, boomers have mixed emotions about enrolling in Medicare—just over one-quarter reported feeling nervous (26 percent), indifferent (27 percent), and 14 percent described themselves as overwhelmed.
Being indifferent to enrolling in Medicare can also be costly.
Medicare Part B and Part D each have surcharge premiums if you do not enroll when eligible.
It is not required that you enroll; however, should you choose not to enroll when you are eligible and do not have coverage through another insurance plan and then want to enroll at a later date, you will pay a surcharge on top of your monthly premiums as long as you are enrolled.
The survey also pointed out the lack of awareness of one of the most important changes to Medicare in 2011: Less than 10 percent of the respondents could identify the new annual election period (AEP) as Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Previously the election period had been Nov. 15 through Dec. 31.
Medicare plans change every year and so do our health needs.
Additional information on Medicare and cost-saving options can be found at www.Medicare.gov, the official government site for Medicare, or call (800) 633-4227.
The website www.BenefitsCheckUp.org helps seniors find benefits they may not realize they are eligible for.
Locally, Senior Concerns Advocates can provide guidance. They can be reached at (805) 495-6250 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.