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Education on Medicare is lacking among the general public, survey finds

Many healthcare consumers are lacking even basic knowledge about the existing federal program.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

With some Democratic presidential candidates advocating for a Medicare-For-All system, which would essentially create a version of single-payer healthcare in the U.S., Eligibility.com recently conducted a survey to determine how much the general public actually knows about Medicare.

The short answer: Not a whole lot.

While the sample size was small -- only about 500 people -- the results indicate that many healthcare consumers are lacking even basic knowledge about the existing federal program, which could raise concerns among politicians who are looking to make single-payer healthcare a cornerstone campaign issue.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

Of those surveyed, 50 percent believe that Medicare is free. Which, of course, it isn't.

Medicare Part A, which covers hospitals and a few ancillary services, is paid for via taxes on working Americans, and is only available to those over a certain age threshold. Part B, covering doctors and specialists, sees premiums ranging from $135 to about $460, depending on a person's income. Part D, meanwhile, is sold by private insurance companies and can be added onto existing Medicare coverage for an added fee.

Another misconception revealed by the survey is that Medicare is part of the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare legislation. As many as 26% of respondents believe this, but in fact Medicare was created in 1965, some 43 years before Obama was first elected. The ACA made cost controlling changes to Medicare, and allowed for the expansion of Medicaid in states that opted in, but both of those programs existed long before the ACA came around.

A significant percentage of respondents older than 54, about 41%, believe they'll automatically be enrolled in Medicare when they're eligible, which again is incorrect. Those who wish to be enrolled must do so through the Social Security Administration. And if someone doesn't enroll in Part A, B or D at the right time, they may have to pay late enrollment penalties for the rest of their life.

There were two things the majority of respondents got correct. Ninety percent knew that there's a difference between Medicare and Medicaid, and 58% knew that President Lyndon B. Johnson created Medicare. Still, 21% thought it was Obama, 20% thought it was Bill Clinton, and two people thought it was Donald Trump.

THE LARGER TREND

To date, several Democrats -- Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillebrand, Julián Castro, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang, among others -- have declared support for a Medicare-For-All arrangement, which would expand Medicare eligibility to include nearly all Americans. Other candidates support the idea of adding a public option to the existing ACA.

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com