Press Releases
October 30, 2017

65% of Seniors on Medicare Are Unfamiliar with Medicare Advantage

Better Medicare Alliance Applauds CMS Efforts to Improve Communication to Beneficiaries

Washington, D.C. — According to a national Morning Consult poll released by Better Medicare Alliance (BMA), 65 percent of seniors enrolled in Traditional Medicare are unfamiliar with Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part C- the public-private managed care option under Medicare.

Currently, 58 million beneficiaries are enrolled in the Medicare program — of which 19 million are enrolled in Medicare Advantage. Despite enrollment growth in Medicare Advantage, Medicare-eligible beneficiaries continue to report low awareness, understanding and/or confusion regarding their Medicare coverage choices.


The survey of 2,000 respondents found that just 29 percent enrolled in Traditional Medicare say they had the option of Medicare Advantage made clear to them when researching care options. While 27 percent of Medicare-eligible seniors reported not knowing what resource to use to research Medicare enrollment options, 24 percent reported using Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website and 23 percent reported using CMS’ Medicare & You Handbook to research options.


This year BMA submitted recommendations to CMS in response to a request for feedback on the annual Handbook distributed to Medicare-eligible beneficiaries. BMA recommended: information upfront in the Handbook of Medicare coverage choices and key information regarding benefits and consumer protections as well as the inclusion of charts, tables, and illustrations to improve the readability and comprehensibility of the information. BMA also encouraged CMS to include more information on Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plans (SNPs) which was subsequently included as well as the addition of fitness and wellness programs listed as benefits available under Medicare Advantage.


‘‘In order for beneficiaries to make the right choice for themselves as they enroll in Medicare, they deserve easily accessible, clearly understandable information on the choices available to them,’’ said Allyson Y. Schwartz, Better Medicare Alliance (BMA) President and CEO. ‘‘We welcomed the opportunity to offer proposed changes to the Handbook and are delighted that a number of recommendations were incorporated. While these changes are important, going forward evidence shows that more work is needed to effectively communicate the option of Medicare Advantage to ensure Medicare beneficiaries and caregivers are making fully-informed critical decisions about their health care.’’

Other key findings in the poll include the following:

  • Strong majority of Medicare-eligible seniors (69 percent) say having a choice other than traditional Medicare is important to them
  • Forty-nine percent of those enrolled in Medigap plans say the option of Medicare Advantage was not made clear to them when researching Medicare coverage options
  • A majority of those enrolled in Traditional Medicare (55 percent) say they either do not understand or do not know the difference between being enrolled in Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage – only 20 percent of those enrolled in Medicare Advantage report not knowing the difference between Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage.
  • Many seniors (59 percent) across plan type do not understand or do not know the differences between Advantage and Medigap plans
  • However, 76 percent of those enrolled in Traditional Medicare do not understand or do not know if they know the difference between Medicare Advantage and Medigap compared to 50 percent of those enrolled in Medicare Advantage and 39 percent of those enrolled in Medigap who say they do not know or understand the differences
  • Among those not on Advantage plans:
  • 44 percent are confused about the costs associated with Medicare Advantage plans
  • 44 percent are confused about how Medicare Advantage interacts with Traditional Medicare or Medigap
  • 43 percent are confused about what the out of pocket cost limit is for a Medicare Advantage plan
  • 42 percent are confused about what services are covered under a Medicare Advantage plan


BMA is a broad alliance of more than 90 organizations, including providers, health professionals, health systems, aging service agencies, business groups, retiree organizations, health plans, as well as Medicare Advantage beneficiaries.


Results from the full survey have a margin of error of ±2%.



Click here to read Better Medicare Alliance letter to CMS regarding the 2018 Medicare and You Handbook.


Sign Up for Policy Alerts

Sign up to receive exclusive updates on Medicare Advantage policy.