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The Need to Do the Medicare Homework: Starting Out and Ongoing

The study surveyed Medicare beneficiaries and those on the cusp of turning 65 — coming-of-agers (COAs) — to get a true read on how prepared Medicare enrollees should be.

spinner image Woman doing online research

Enrolling in Medicare requires more than signing a few forms, but a recent AARP survey finds that many people approaching the 65-plus eligibility threshold have no idea what it involves.

Knowing the Facts

Nearly six in 10 current beneficiaries report they initially enrolled In Original Medicare (without a Medigap supplement) while four in 10 enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan.

COAs are more likely to use internet searches and the Medicare.gov website to learn about plans, options, and costs, unlike current beneficiaries who relied on insurance agents for information. But while two-thirds of current beneficiaries report they spent some time researching Medicare and comparing plans, just three in 10 COAs report doing so. Most also admit looking into plans just prior to turning 65.

Meanwhile, cost and choice of doctors are leading concerns among those soon to enroll in Medicare, followed by a lack of vision and dental coverage, copays, and out-of-pocket maximums.

Satisfaction

A third of beneficiaries enrolled in original Medicare who have supplemental insurance, known as Medigap, switched to a Medicare Advantage plan. Meanwhile, nearly all Medicare Advantage plan holders still have their plan. They're confident their plan will continue to fit their needs as they age, too.

While 80% of current beneficiaries with Original Medicare plus Medigap are very satisfied with their choice, that level of satisfaction edges down to 74% for people with a Medicare Advantage plan and falls again to 40% for those with Original Medicare without Medigap.

Comparing Coverage
During the upcoming open enrollment, which runs from October 15 to December 7, current beneficiaries can join, switch, or drop a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, as well as move to or from Original Medicare. Over half of those with a Medicare Advantage plan say they compare costs and coverage every year during open enrollment, while six in 10 with Original Medicare report that they compare them.

Methodology
The AARP study was conducted by landline, cellphone, and online with U.S. adults, ages 64-80 in English and Spanish from February 23 to March 16, 2023. The data are weighted by age (beneficiaries only), gender, race/ethnicity, education, and region according to Census Bureau 2021 5-year ACS statistics. Beneficiary sample: 2.8%; COA sample 6.8%. (Note: the online portion of the sample is not probability based.)

For more information, please contact Teresa A. Keenan at tkeenan@aarp.org. For media inquiries, please contact External Relations at media@aarp.org.

Suggested Citation:

Keenan, Teresa A. Choosing Medicare: Understanding the Decision-Making Process of Current Medicare Beneficiaries and Coming-of-Agers. Washington, DC: AARP Research, September 2023. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00722.001