Many Elderly Medicare Beneficiaries Unaware of Reform Provisions

A survey released in July 2010 by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) indicated that only 17% of seniors across the country were able to correctly answer half of the 12 random questions about the new health reform law and its key provisions. The survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive from July 9 to July 12, was based on 636 responses from adults ages 65 and older.

“There are about 45 million Americans enrolled in Medicare,” says Alan Weinstock, an insurance broker at “And many of them need help understanding how the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will impact the Medicare program and in particular, their benefits.”

That is why the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent out a new mailing called “Medicare and the New Health Law – What it Means to You.” The purpose of the brochure is to outline the key points to the new Affordable Care Act that was put into law on March 23.

National Council on Aging Survey Findings

NCOA officials said that the survey illustrates the broad misunderstanding among Medicare beneficiaries about the health reform law. In particular, the survey found that:

  • None of the respondents correctly answered all 12 questions
  • Nearly half of the respondents incorrectly said the federal health reform law will increase the national deficit over the next 10 years
  • More than 62% of the respondents were unsure about the expected changes in Medicare Advantage under the overhaul
  • Only 14% knew that the law does not cut payments to physicians who treat Medicare beneficiaries
  • Less than one quarter (24%) knew that the ACA is expected to extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund
  • A mere 14% were aware that the new law is projected to reduce deficit spending
  • An astonishing 42% thought that the new law would reduce their Medicare benefits

“This is further evidence why seniors who have questions about Medicare and the new health law might want to reach out to service organizations for assistance,” indicates Weinstock. Medicare beneficiaries have help at their fingertips through their State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

NCOA ‘Straight Talk’ Education Campaign Launched

The survey coincided with a new NCOA national education campaign called “Straight Talk for Seniors on Health Reform.” The program — intended to help the elderly better understand the health reform law — will include town-hall meetings, interactive quizzes and online seminars to better educate seniors.

Advocacy groups for seniors as well as the Obama administration are planning outreach programs as well to address the misinformation and/or lack of information about the short- and long-term effects of the new reform law among older residents.

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