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Many Older Adults Can't Answer Basics on Medicare

Survey finds that those nearing eligibility have much to learn before they turn 65

Woman reading Medicare booklet

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Bob Daemmrich Photography/Alamy Stock Photo

En español | A majority of Americans who are about to become eligible for Medicare cannot answer most questions correctly in a quiz about the basics of the program.

A survey conducted by MassMutual found that although the vast majority of people 65 and over are dependent on the program for health care coverage, those who are nearing that age remain uninformed. Almost two-thirds of participants in the survey, who were 60 to 64 years old, could not correctly answer a majority of four basic questions about the program.

For more information, visit AARP's Medicare Resource Center.

Among the data from the survey:

  • 42 percent believe that Parts A and B are both free. (Part A, which covers hospital expenses, generally has no premium, but there is a deductible if you are hospitalized. Part B covers regular medical services; there is a monthly premium.)
  • 37 percent think that filing for Medicare and Social Security must be done together. The programs are interrelated but have different filing requirements. You sign up for Medicare at age 65, but you can sign up for reduced Social Security benefits as early as age 62. The age at which you can sign up for “full” Social Security benefits has risen — it's 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954, but will rise in two-month increments until it reaches 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later. You can also defer taking Social Security until you reach age 70 to maximize your payments. 
  • A third of respondents do not know that Medicare does not provide coverage outside the United States.

A full explanation of Medicare benefits is available on the AARP website.