When You’re 64: What Consumers Don’t Know About Medicare

Joan Cihak


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This is archived content, for historical reference only.

As baby boomers begin to turn 65, more than a million Californians will become eligible for Medicare. With health care costs continuing to rise and employers moving toward reducing benefits for retirees, it’s especially important for those aging into Medicare to understand what they must do to secure adequate health care coverage.

This CHCF issue brief reports that despite an abundance of information and counseling resources, many 64-year-old Californians are uninformed about Medicare, lacking a basic understanding of both how it works and where to find help. These seniors are either leaving decisions to chance or making choices at enrollment that could increase their costs and limit their future options.

Focus groups and surveys with 64-year-olds and Medicare intermediaries find that very few 64-year-olds feel confident in their understanding of Medicare. Only 11% of respondents said they know “all” or “most” of what they need about the program and nearly 60% said they know “nothing” or “only a little.”

In addition, more than half of those surveyed (56%) were not aware of coverage options beyond basic Medicare, and even more (61%) had not heard about the Part D drug benefit. Of those familiar with Part D, only 16% felt they understood it.

However, the research also suggests that 64-year-olds are receptive to learning about Medicare, provided the information is framed and delivered effectively.

The issue brief, along with an update on the effectiveness of the Welcome to Medicare brochure, is available under Document Downloads.