Many Medicare Beneficiaries Confused About New Prescription Drug Benefit, Survey Finds
More than half of Medicare beneficiaries do not understand the new Medicare prescription drug benefit and do not plan to enroll in the program, according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup survey conducted last week, USA Today reports. The survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus seven percentage points, included 275 adults ages 65 and older.
The survey found that 37% of respondents said they understand the Medicare prescription benefit "at least somewhat well" and that 61% said they do not, according to USA Today. The results are similar to those from surveys conducted in July and August. In addition, the survey found that 24% of respondents said they plan to enroll in the Medicare prescription drug benefit program and that 54% said they do not plan to enroll in the program; 22% said they have no opinion, the survey found.
Critics of the Medicare prescription drug benefit said that the results of the survey indicate the confusion of beneficiaries about the program. "The (poll) numbers suggest an abysmal program," Robert Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, said, adding, "This benefit was designed to make it impossible for consumers to understand it."
Vicki Gottlich, senior policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy, said, "People are very confused. Part of the confusion stems from all the variables. If you're going to get mailings from 15 different companies offering a different array of plans, you might throw it all in the garbage."
However, CMS spokesperson Kathleen Harrington said, "This is positive movement. We know that we have more work to do, but we have plans in place to do it."
George Kelemen, director of an AARP outreach effort, said, "It's early. It's opening day, if you will. We have seen steady progress in the raising of the awareness needle. The real teachable moments are now throughout the remainder of this year and next year" (Wolf, USA Today, 10/4).
The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday published a series of recommendations for Medicare beneficiaries who consider enrollment in the prescription drug benefit (Martinez/Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 10/4).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit is available online.