Science & Tech

Survey: Many seniors don’t understand Medicare drug benefit

2 min read

They may not sign up

When asked how well they understand the new Medicare drug benefit, more than six in 10 seniors (61 percent) say ‘not too well’ or ‘not at all,’ while more than one in three seniors (35 percent) say ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ well. When asked whether the Medicare drug benefit would help them personally, more seniors say it would not (49 percent) than say it would (39 percent).

Overall, more than four in 10 seniors (43 percent) report they do not yet know if they will enroll in a Medicare drug plan for 2006; 37 percent say they do not plan to enroll; and one in five (20 percent) say they plan to enroll. Seniors without any drug coverage are most likely to say that they plan to enroll (28 percent, compared with 15 percent for those with existing drug coverage).

Most seniors substantially underestimate the number of drug plan choices that they will have, with just 5 percent correctly identifying that they will have more than 20 options for receiving their drug coverage. When informed that “the government has announced that most people on Medicare will have at least 40 different drug plans to choose from,” almost three in four (73 percent) say that having many plans “makes it confusing and difficult to pick the best plan,” while 22 percent say it is “helpful and provides an opportunity to choose the best plan.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health “The Medicare Drug Benefit: Beneficiary Perspectives Just Before Implementation” was conducted and analyzed by researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health including Professor Robert Blendon.