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Seniors show high level of satisfaction with Medicare Advantage during pandemic

Ninety-five percent of respondents agreed it is important for seniors to have coverage options aside from traditional Medicare.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, a new Morning Consult poll of more than 1,200 seniors on Medicare commissioned by Better Medicare Alliance shows near-universal satisfaction with Medicare Advantage's coverage (98%), provider networks (97%) and handling of the current health crisis (98%).

Ninety-five percent of respondents agreed it is important for seniors to have coverage options aside from traditional Medicare, and 93% reported that a candidate's support for Medicare Advantage is important to their vote. Three quarters (77%) of seniors on Medicare Advantage strongly oppose the federal government reducing the amount of money paid to Medicare Advantage, even if such cuts are billed as necessary to lower costs to taxpayers or reduce the national debt.

Conducted December 11-17, 2020, the poll also gauged Medicare Advantage beneficiaries' views about the Medicare enrollment process, supplemental benefits, Star Ratings, and telehealth usage and favorability. Findings showed that seniors on Medicare Advantage are most likely to have personally used vision (64%), dental (48%), telehealth (43%) and wellness (40%) coverage.

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WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

Among the 95% of seniors who believe it's important to have a choice of plans other than traditional Medicare, 64% believe it's very important. The total percentage of seniors who believe it is important to have a choice of plans other than traditional Medicare has risen 7% since October 2019.

Seniors on Medicare Advantage were most likely to consider their network of doctors, hospitals and specialists (96%), lower monthly premiums (94%), and lower copays for appointments and services (95%) when they selected a Medicare Advantage plan.

Meanwhile, the percentage of seniors who have used telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic rose from 24% in May 2020 to 40% in December 2020. Among those who have used telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic, 91% said they had a favorable experience.

Some confusion arose when it came to star ratings. Among seniors on Medicare Advantage, over half (57%) are not familiar with the star ratings system used by the government to grade Medicare Advantage plans on quality. And two in three who are in fact familiar with the star ratings system did not refer to it when selecting a Medicare Advantage plan.

Two thirds of seniors on Medicare felt they had enough information about Medicare Advantage when they first enrolled in Medicare, an 11% increase from 2019. Still, 30% of seniors would have liked more information about the option of Medicare Advantage.

THE LARGER TREND

A separate study published in December 2020 found that for 2021, consumers are choosing MA not only for the telehealth benefits, but for COVID-19 supplemental benefits offered by the private plans. Of those who decided on an MA plan because of supplemental benefits, 35% cited COVID-19 supplemental benefits specifically, while 27% cited telehealth benefits.

Thirty-five percent are enrolled in an MA plan for 2021 because they've had it before and prefer it; 29% like the prescription drug coverage; 16% like the affordability; and 9% like the supplemental benefits, the report said. Forty-five percent are switching from an original Medicare plan in 2020 to a Medicare Advantage plan in 2021, the report said.

Of those enrolled in an MA plan for 2021, 65% compared all of their Medicare options before enrolling, while 26% did a "brief amount of research."
 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com