More Than Half of Medicare Plan Shoppers Want Someone to Filter the Menu

Many policymakers in Washington see changes in Medicare program policy as a way to get at some of the program’s $888 billion in annual revenue.

Your clients just want someone to pay the medical bills.

Two firms — Deft Research, a Minneapolis-based market research company, and eHealth, a health insurance web broker — recently published results from Medicare plan shopper surveys, to try to find out what the clients are thinking.

What It Means

If you sometimes have trouble distinguishing between Medicaid, original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Advantage special needs plans and Medicare supplement (Med supp) insurance letter policies, think of how confused the typical client must be.

This is a situation where a trusted, knowledgeable advisor can make a difference.

The Numbers

Deft provides a smattering of information in front of a login wall. The web broker, eHealth, has posted a more comprehensive survey report. Here are five insights from the firms’ survey results.

1. Many customers who prefer Med supp are still out there.

Clients can choose between Medicare Advantage plans, which often resemble commercial managed care health plans, to fill in the many gaps in original Medicare coverage, or they can use Med supp policies.

Both Medicare Advantage plans and Med supp plans come from private health insurers.

Medicare Advantage plans use a combination of cash from the Medicare program and enrollee premiums to provide what looks to the enrollee like an alternative to original Medicare coverage.

Medicare Advantage plans tend to have much lower monthly premiums than Med supp policies. They offer care coordination services, and they often provide many extra benefits, such as dental benefits and hearing care benefits. In exchange, the enrollee must accept active efforts by the plan to manage use of care and steer enrollees toward using in-network doctors and hospitals.

Med supp policies simply fill in the gaps in original Medicare coverage. They tend to come with significant monthly premiums, but patients usually pay less out of pocket when they get care, and they can see any care provider that takes Medicare.

Deft found, when it surveyed consumers who are aging into being eligible for Medicare, that a significant share, 32%, would prefer to sign up for Med supp coverage. About 49% say they’re likely to buy Medicare Advantage plan coverage.

2. The percentage of Deft survey takes who prefer Med supp coverage is shrinking.

The percentage of Deft survey participants who expect to get Medicare Advantage plan coverage has increased from 45% in 2021, and from 40% in 2017.

The percentage who lean toward signing up for Med supp coverage has fallen from 36% last year, and from 45% in 2017.

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