NCOA, UnitedHealthCare Urge Older Adults to Explore Options in Advance of Medicare Open Enrollment
Latest Poll Indicates More Medicare Education Needed; Vulnerable Seniors Can Find Ways to Save Money on Health Care Costs by Shopping Around
WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With the Medicare-eligible population growing by 10,000 people per day, a new survey reveals the need for older adults, especially those struggling financially, to receive expanded Medicare education, including potential cost-saving options.
NCOA encourages economically vulnerable seniors to understand what coverage they currently have and to shop around for plans that may better fit their health needs, and save them money.
All eligible seniors are allowed to make changes to their coverage during the Annual Enrollment Period from October 15 – December 7, 2011. These dates have changed this year under a provision passed in the Affordable Care Act, or health reform, in 2010.
A recent poll of older adults conducted for the National Council on Aging (NCOA) by GfK Roper, with support from UnitedHealthCare (UHC), indicated that 46% of respondents have never shopped around for better Medicare coverage because many (41%) thought they couldn't save any money, were confused by Medicare (35%), or didn't understand Medicare at all (16%). Less than half of respondents were familiar with the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole" or coverage gap and only 12% described their understanding of the health reform law as excellent or good.
In addition to standard comparison shopping, many respondents were not aware of extra benefits that can provide critical assistance for vulnerable seniors, including Medicare Savings Programs (68%), which help people with limited income pay for some or all of their Medicare costs, and Extra Help (53%), which helps pay for prescription drug costs.
"In this economy, many seniors are justifiably worried about their financial future," said Jim Firman, president and CEO of NCOA. "When it comes to Medicare costs, now is the time they can do something about it. Research your options and apply for available extra benefits. You'll be surprised how much money you can actually save."
"Medicare plans change every year, as do your health needs," added Nora Dowd Eisenhower, vice president, Benefits Access Group and director of the National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment. "Older adults should explore their options each year, and they need to know that help is available should they need it, to assist them in making the right choices."
Older adults can ask questions, find resources, and get information about their Medicare coverage in a variety of ways including, but not limited to:
- www.Medicare.gov – the official government site for Medicare
- www.SHIPtalk.org – find local help from a network of trained counselors who provide personalized help
- www.BenefitsCheckUp.org –run by NCOA, this site helps seniors find benefits they may not realize they are eligible for
- www.Eldercare.gov – provides local information and referrals
"Vulnerable seniors have the power to reduce their financial burden and control their own health," said Firman. "The tools available to them can set them on a path towards economic security and give them a clearer picture of their health care needs."
Information on the poll and links to additional material can be found at www.NCOA.org/Medicare.
GfK Roper interviewed 500 boomers (age 60-64) and 1,000 seniors (age 65+) by telephone from July 13 – July 29, with a sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.
The National Council on Aging is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. NCOA's mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged. NCOA is a national voice for older Americans and the community organizations that serve them. It brings together nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government to develop creative solutions that improve the lives of all older adults. NCOA works with thousands of organizations across the country to help seniors find jobs and benefits, improve their health, live independently, and remain active in their communities.
SOURCE National Council on Aging