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What Medicare beneficiaries want—and don’t want—from government

Insurance Forums Staff

Regardless of party affiliation, most Americans want the government to take action on drug costs, but they also value the role of private enterprise in Medicare.

These are among the key findings from a new installment of eHealth, Inc.’s newest biannual Health Insurance Trends report, offering a comprehensive look at the state of the market in a period of transformation and new possibilities.

The report presents findings of interest to consumers, elected representatives and policymakers, insurance industry leaders, and market analysts. Regarding what Medicare beneficiaries want—and don’t want—from government, the report found the following:

  • 83% want the federal government to take action to lower the cost of prescription drugs by negotiating with pharmaceutical companies. This is true across political lines, including strong majorities of Democrats (93%), Republicans (73%), and Independents (84%).
  • 92% want to see dental, vision, and hearing benefits added to traditional Medicare coverage, but only 50% feel the same if it would add to their costs.
  • Among Medicare beneficiaries, majorities of Republicans (56%), Independents (56%) and Democrats (51%) say Medicare should continue to be operated through public/private cooperation. Only 16% overall want the government alone to run the program.

As far as how COVID-19’s impact on consumers and insurers is more nuanced than you may think, the report found:

  • 64% would get a COVID booster shot, but willingness declines to 55% if shots are recommended 1-2 times per year.
  • 76% of Democrat voters feel most businesses should be able to refuse service to unvaccinated Americans, but fewer than half (49%) of Black Americans agree.
  • 38% of insurers have already reduced voluntarily expanded COVID coverage, or plan to do so. However, only 12% plan to raise premiums as a result of the pandemic.

When it comes to how health insurers could do better addressing the needs of diverse communities, the study found:

  • 60% of Hispanic and 56% of Black respondents say they’ve had a surprise medical bill in the past 12 months, as do 54% of all women. By comparison, 46% of white respondents and 45% of men say they’ve had a surprise medical bill in the past year.
  • When asked if they feel the health insurance options available to them address the specific medical needs of their racial or ethnic community, Hispanic respondents are least likely to say yes (41%), followed by Asian (45%), and Black (46%) respondents. By contrast, 58% of white respondents answered yes.

In terms of how the opportunity—and challenge—facing organizations serving health insurance consumers online is constantly evolving:

  • With an estimated 10,000 new Medicare beneficiaries every day, the No. 1 place they go to learn about their Medicare coverage options is online, and 69% want the freedom to look beyond government-run marketplaces to shop for, compare, and enroll in coverage.
  • When it comes to health care innovation and technology, more than half (52%) of general population respondents say private enterprise does a better job than government. Only 18% think government does a better job.

The eHealth report is compiled from more than 6,400 anonymous responses to surveys of the general population and of Medicare beneficiaries. It also includes findings from a survey of more than 15 representatives from health insurance companies with whom eHealth has a relationship. Read the full report for deeper analysis and additional insights.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based eHealth, Inc. operates a leading health insurance marketplace at eHealth.com and eHealthMedicare.com with technology that provides consumers with health insurance enrollment solutions.



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