November 4, 2012 — Note: This is Part 2 of our Medical Insurance for Retirement Series. See Further Reading at end for links to Part 1 and 3.
The result of last month’s member survey about Medicare are in. We are pleased that you have ideas on a plan to fix Medicare, something that differentiates you from our elected leaders in Washington. When asked to rank your ideal fix from a list of 9 choices, limiting benefits to the most affluent was the number 1 choice, closely followed by 4 others (see detailed results below). Vouchers and lifetime benefit caps were the least popular choices in the survey. Elsewhere in the survey results, most of our responders have opted in to Medicare and its component parts. The sole exception is Part C (Medicare Advantage), where more folks are not in the program than are.
We are so grateful to the more than 550 people who took to the time to answer our 9 questions about Medicare. While we can’t say that any of the findings are particularly surprising, the results do shed valuable light on participation rates on Parts A-D, likes and dislikes about the program, and concerns about the program’s future. By far the most interesting results were your preferences on how to fix the Medicare program for the future. Shown below are the findings for each of the 9 survey questions.
Participation Rates by Medicare Part
The majority of the responders to this survey are currently enrolled in Medicare (51% yes vs. 34% who are not, and 11% who will be on the plan within 12 months).
Most choose or intend to choose Part B, the part that covers doctors’ visits, etc., (71% Yes, 6% No, 18% undecided).
The stew gets a little thicker when it comes to Part C (Medicare Advantage). Those saying they were not in the plan outnumbered those were in it (38% No compared to 22% Yes, with 35% undecided).
The Prescription Drug component of Medicare (Part D) is chosen more often than not, with 44% in the plan compared to 28% who are not (23% are undecided).
One of the survey questions we were most interested in seeing the answers to was whether or not you have been told by medical providers that they will not accept Medicare. Here are the results:
Never been denied 39%
Yes, but only rarely 8%
Yes, occasionally 8%
Yes, frequently 5%
From this we could conclude that Medicare turndowns are not now a serious problem. But there were a number of comments that indicate there is serious concern for the future: some patients have been told that their doctors will only honor Medicare for existing patients, while a few others have been told that they will have to find a new doctor when the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) goes into effect.
Preferred Solution to fixing Medicare
If our members were controlling the Congress we are confident you could promptly fix Medicare to make this popular program safe for the current and following generation. One could argue that the highest ranked choices in our survey tend to shift costs and pain to someone else (since most of respondents are already in the program), but at least they are solutions. Your number 1 fix would be to limit benefits to higher income beneficiaries (weighted rank of 4.38). Following that solution are 4 more with almost identical ranks ranging from 4.91 to 4.96): replace fee for services with outcome based payments, raise payroll taxes, raise eligibility age, and use private companies to increase competition.
The overwhelming most unpopular way to fix Medicare in the survey was to put a lifetime cap on benefits. But there were 3 other poorly rated solutions that no one would be much surprised to see – reducing payments for some services (5.49), going to a Voucher system (5.98), and lifetime benefit caps (6.77). One choice we wished we had included in the survey was, “Raise Medicare premium rates to make it solvent”, but we are guessing that wouldn’t have been a popular choice.
What You Like Best About Medicare
We were delighted to have received 430 comments on what our readers like best about Medicare. Most of those comments had to do with liking its low cost or being grateful to have such a good and easy to use program. These are the most common comments we received; where possible we included actual quotes from typical responses:
– Low cost – “affordable insurance I couldn’t otherwise have”
– “Considering everything it offers, how could I complain”
– Peace of mind – “I know I am covered”
– Simplicity and ease of use
– “Lack of paperwork”
– Universal coverage
– “No questions service anywhere in the country”
– Taking care of our elderly
– “I paid for it”
What You Like Least About Medicare
There were 423 comments on what you Like Least About Medicare. There were several main themes in the negatives mentioned about the program: fraud and waste, its complexity, and fear that more doctors will start to decline Medicare patients. There were quite a few concerns that the program covers people who didn’t pay into the program (we are not sure who these people are – probably mostly non-working spouses of recipients – since illegal aliens aren’t covered and the poor are covered by Medicaid).
– “Fraud and waste” (abuses by patients, doctors, hospitals, and equipment providers)
– Worries “the plan won’t always be there”
– “Complexity” of the program and what to choose
– That so many people are covered who have not earned it
– Not all doctors participate and it could get worse
– Some things not covered (dental, vision, hearing aids, while others not covered enough (some services are only 80% covered)
– “Forced to enroll”
– “Run by the government”
By and large the comments we received indicate Medicare is a popular program, one worth preserving. People are very concerned about fraud and waste, which many seem to have personal experience seeing.
The Winners: We promised that we would draw 2 names to receive a copy of Jan Cullinane’s new book, “The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement”, or Lucy Burdette’s “Death in Four Courses”. The winner of Jan’s book was Mizmartha; Christina won Lucy’s new cozy mystery.
For further reference:
Part 1 Medicare 101 – So You Are Turning 65, Your Guide to Medicare
Part 3 What to Do about Medical Insurance When You Retire Early
Checklist: 6 Things to Do When You Start Medicare
8 Things to Consider When Choosing or Changing Your Coverage
Healthcare.gov – a great government resource for answering questions and helping you find health insurance
More Topretirements Surveys
Retirement Housing Preferences
Good News: Topretirements Members Very Confident about Retirement