The vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries are concerned that the public health insurance program won't be in place decades from now, according to eHealth's latest Medicare Consumer Survey. Nearly one-quarter aren't confident Medicare will last their lifetime and 41% aren't sure Medicare will continue for their kids.
In spite of that pessimism, 75% of responses are either very satisfied or satisfied with their Medicare coverage. Only 6% said they're either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.
- The survey found an even split between seniors who believe all Americans should have access to a Medicare-like program and those who say they don't support that change. Support for broad access to such a program increased 21% compared to a similar survey in August 2018.
The survey of 2,021 people found that they're generally quite happy with Medicare. Older Medicare recipients are happiest with their coverage. Nearly nine out of 10 people who are 80 years old or older say they're satisfied or very satisfied with Medicare. That’s compared to 79% of people age 71 to 79, 71% of people 65-70 and 69% of those under 65.
The survey also found that people with higher incomes are happier about Medicare — 81% of respondents making between $50,000 and $75,000 are either satisfied or very satisfied. That's compared to 67% of those with an annual income below $25,000.
The report didn't break the information down into traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage, so didn't cover whether seniors prefer one to the other.
Medicare recipients are worried that the federal government may cut their benefits. More than two-thirds said they share the concern, while more than half worry fewer doctors will take Medicare. Almost half are concerned they won't be able to afford coverage. A mere 8% aren't worried about potential Medicare changes.
The survey also found that a Medicare plan's costs are what's most important for consumers. One-third of respondents believe affordable monthly premiums is the most important consideration when choosing a plan. That's higher than low out-of-pocket costs (31%) and easily eclipses having their preferred doctor in the plan's network (20%) and prescription drug coverage (12%). Out-of-pocket costs are older seniors' biggest concern, while premiums top the list for younger Medicare beneficiaries.
One key to Medicare's future is controlling drug costs. EHealth said 73% of respondents believe Medicare needs prescription drug cost caps for its future. One-quarter suggested paying doctors and hospitals less and nearly one-quarter proposed higher taxes for Americans not yet on Medicare to protect the program.
To save Medicare, four in 10 said they're willing to receive care in non-traditional settings, including a pharmacy. Many Medicare recipients are willing to use digital health tracking devices if they improve care or save money. That includes 73% willing to wear a blood pressure monitor, 53% willing to use a heart rate monitor and 47% ready to use a blood sugar monitor. Those kinds of wearables have the potential to save money and reduce doctor's office visits.
Overall, the survey shows the popularity of the program. Medicare for all proponents — including a number of Democrats entering the presidential race — will likely trumpet such results to show a growing support of the program. However, it's still the case that Medicare recipients are pessimistic about the program's long-term future, which could be connected to low trust in government.
Only one-fifth of respondents believe Medicare will last for many generations. Men and older enrollees are most optimistic about the program's long-term future. Women and lower-income people are less likely to believe that Medicare will be in place for their children and grandchildren.