Disturbing percentage of Med Supp, Advantage enrollees lack full understanding of plans

A revealing new dataset on Medicare beneficiaries sheds light on just how little many of them understand about the coverage.

MedicareGuide.com surveyed how well U.S. adults 65+ understood their Medicare Supplement and Advantage plans and gauged how much respondents use and trust eight sources of information, including agents and the government, in their buying decisions.

The survey found some significant disparities:

  • 29% of U.S. adults aged 65+ with Medicare do not fully understand Medicare Advantage plans, and 23% do not fully understand Medicare Supplement plans.
  • 82% of respondents who’d enrolled in one or the other type plan said they understood Medicare Supplement “very” or “somewhat well.” That compares to 76% who said they understood Medicare Advantage very or somewhat well.
  • Personal physicians are the most trusted (57%), and telemarketers the least trusted (1%) sources of information on Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans.
  • Licensed insurance agents are the most-used source of information and the second-most trusted source of information (behind doctors) when applying for Medicare Supplement or Advantage plans.

Given their lack of understanding, many elderly Americans turn to agents for help enrolling in plans, despite the fact that only 20% of Americans 65 and older said they trust agents a great deal.

Asked how much they used eight information sources when they applied for Medicare Supplement or Advantage plans, the greatest number, 28% of respondents, said they used licensed insurance agents a great deal.

The importance of trust in licensed insurance agents becomes clear in another result of the survey: a 52% majority of Americans signed up with Supplement or Advantage plans were enrolled by an agent.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents with Med Supp or MA plans said an agent enrolled them in person. Another 23% said an agent enrolled for them by phone.

A further 29% said they enrolled online themselves; 8% enrolled by mail, and 11% cited other methods.

Eighty-eight percent of Americans who signed up for Medicare Supplement or Advantage plans said they were the primary decision maker in choosing a plan. Another 8% said their spouse was the primary decision maker, while less than 1% answered either an adult child, another family member, or a friend.

Predictably, Medicare Advantage came out on top in terms of ease of enrollment. Asked how easy or difficult the enrollment process was, 59% said Medicare Advantage was easy to enroll in, compared to just 48% who said the same about Medicare Supplement.

Medicare Advantage applications are standardized and about two pages long. Medicare Supplement applications vary by carrier and state, and are virtually all over 10 pages.

MedicareGuide.com, an expert information source owned and operated by HealthCare.com, surveyed over 1,010 U.S. adults aged 65 and up. The survey was conducted by YouGov from February 12-17, 2021.

Click here for full survey results.

9 COMMENTS

  1. But Joe Namath said I did not have to pay anything and I would get my Medicare premium back, free dental, free vision, free everything. You lied to me Mister insurance man and signed me up for a plan with co-pays. I am so glad I called Joe Namath at the Medicare Helpline. The kind lady from the Philippines told me how awful you are for not signing me up for all this free stuff that I am ENTITLED to receive.

  2. Just got off the phone with n 84 yr old client that enrolled in an HMO that the local hospital is out of network with, she kept getting phone calls from an agent, she finally decided to enroll.
    She has no idea where the agent is from, but she said he sounded like he knew her well and wanted to help her, he even told her all about his new 3 month old baby.

    I know a lot of young agents selling tons of business, they make great money and look good at company meetings and trips, but this is what they leave behind!

  3. Just got off the phone with n 84 yr old client that enrolled in an HMO that the local hospital is out of network with, she kept getting phone calls from an agent, she finally decided to enroll.
    She has no idea where the agent is from, but she said he sounded like he knew her well and wanted to help her, he even told her all about his new 3 month old baby.

    I know a lot of young agents selling tons of business, they make great money and look good at company meetings and trips, but this is what they leave behind!

  4. dandan

    I know a lot of young agents selling tons of business, they make great money and look good at company meetings and trips, but this is what they leave behind!

    It's all about the Benjamin's.

    We have had a few pass through here over the years, bragging about how much they write each week.

    Also had a "trainer and recruiter" . . . don't recall his screen name . . . I called him Drummer Boy because he played in a rock band but was also a motivational speaker.

    My award and trip days are behind me. Never really cared for that environment. One year I got the Man of the Year award presented in Hawaii. A few months later I was fired for asking that same VP a legitimate business question in a meeting. He had no idea what I was talking about and chewed me out afterwards for embarrassing him.

  5. dandan

    I know a lot of young agents selling tons of business, they make great money and look good at company meetings and trips, but this is what they leave behind!

    It's all about the Benjamin's.

    We have had a few pass through here over the years, bragging about how much they write each week.

    Also had a "trainer and recruiter" . . . don't recall his screen name . . . I called him Drummer Boy because he played in a rock band but was also a motivational speaker.

    My award and trip days are behind me. Never really cared for that environment. One year I got the Man of the Year award presented in Hawaii. A few months later I was fired for asking that same VP a legitimate business question in a meeting. He had no idea what I was talking about and chewed me out afterwards for embarrassing him.

  6. CMS made a mistake when they allowed the companies to dumb down the enrollment kits.

    when the enrollments kits had the 3 columns:

    Benefits—-how medicare covers under A or B ——-how plan covers benefit

    made explaining and finding value much easier and always had that Medicare reference

  7. A lot of these young agents are selling dual ppo’s . To be honest the dr and the meds are irrelevant to check. As long as the dr accepts Medicaid and its a ppo that covers out of network and the drugs are on the Medicaid acceptance list most errors are glossed over. There’s no way some of these agents selling 30-80 mapd’s a month unless there in and out of the house in 20-30 mi’s and there not checking dr’s or medicines .

  8. BibH

    A lot of these young agents are selling dual ppo’s . To be honest the dr and the meds are irrelevant to check. As long as the dr accepts Medicaid and its a ppo that covers out of network and the drugs are on the Medicaid acceptance list most errors are glossed over. There’s no way some of these agents selling 30-80 mapd’s a month unless there in and out of the house in 20-30 mi’s and there not checking dr’s or medicines .

    I'm not saying you're wrong…but I always worked under the safe assumption that a secondary payer won't pay more than a primary, Medicaid included. I figured it would be easier to play it safe and just make sure they already had providers in network or were willing to switch.

    I took a look at the first DE PPO SNP I could remember and the SOB says nothing of out of network, outside of the PCP must be in network and the member might have to pay if they go out of network.

    https://www.aarpmedicareplans.com/a…/@highrespdf/documents/highrespdf/4822783.pdf

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