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Baby Boomers and Medicare Myths

By on October 3rd, 2012
Filed: Baby Boomer, Disabled, Facts, Medicare, Research, Seniors

We hear about baby boomers (the generation born between 1946 and 1964) a lot these days. Mostly because it’s an election year… and because they all started turning 65 in 2011, which means thousands become eligible for Medicare every day and will continue to do so for the next 18 years.

Baby boomers have often been associated with privilege because they grew up in a time of healthy government subsidies in post-World War II housing, health care and education. But, earlier this year eHealth published a Baby Boomer Survey that refutes that notion of privilege to some degree.

The survey found that  most baby boomers (64%) felt they were not saving enough money for retirement, and most (69%) said they expected to be working after their 65th birthday. About a third (31%) said they wanted to work past age 65, but more than a third (38%) said they would have to work past the age of 65 in order to make ends meet.

And, about 90 percent of the baby boomers in the survey said they were more concerned about the future of Medicare because of the upcoming presidential election.

Not a shocker, given the debate over the Affordable Care Act and the alternative put forth by Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan.

One might assume that people concerned about Medicare’s future would know a lot about the program, but that actually was not the case. The survey results found that many boomers didn’t understand some very basic parts of how Medicare actually works. And, many of those surveyed failed to correctly answer four basic questions about commonly accepted “Medicare myths”:

  • Myth #1: Medicare works just like regular health insurance – 60% didn’t know this was false.
  • Fact #1: Medicare does not work like regular health insurance – Original Medicare (Parts A&B) have different cost-sharing requirements (deductibles, coinsurance, and co-pays). And, they don’t reset each like  health insurance deductibles.
  • Myth #2: Medicare is free – 30% didn’t know this was false.
  • Fact #2: For most people Medicare is not free – Most people pay a monthly premium for Part B (medical insurance) and could have to pay for Part A, based on how long they or their spouse worked and paid payroll taxes.
  • Myth #3: A person can enroll in Medicare any time after they’re 65, without penalty – 77% didn’t know this was false.
  • Fact #3: You cannot enroll in Medicare any time after you turn 65, without penalty – Medicare has a seven month “Initial Enrollment Period” (IEP) when people first become eligible to enroll into Medicare Part A and B, either based on a disability or when they “age in” to Medicare at age 65. IEP starts 3 months prior to the month of Medicare eligibility and ends 3 months after the month of eligibility. There are some exceptions, for instance, if you’re still working and covered by an employer. But, generally people who miss the IEP could be required to pay late enrollment penalties.
  • Myth #4: Medicare covers everything – 19% didn’t know this was false.
  • Fact #4: Medicare does not cover everything - It does not limit what you can spend out of pocket, and has no prescription drug coverage. But, supplemental private insurance is available to fill these gaps.

This 60 second video briefly explains the private insurance options available to help people tackle some of the gaps in Medicare.

Who were the baby boomers in the survey?

  • Age: Nearly half (46%) of the baby boomers surveyed would be eligible for Medicare within 10 years.
  • Gender: Forty-four percent (44%) were male and fifty-six percent (56%) were female.
  • Highest Level of Education: Almost two-thirds of those surveyed (64%) had a college degree. One-in-four (28%) had a master’s degree and one-in-three (36%) had a bachelor’s degree (36%).  One-in-four (25%) had attended, but not completed college; one-in-ten (10%) had graduated high school.
  • Marital Status: The majority (58%) were married. One-in-five were single (22%) or divorced (20%).
  • Employment: Over half (51%) of the baby boomers in the survey were self-employed (29%) or owned a small business (22%). One-in-four (25%) worked for a small business, with anywhere from less than 50 employees (15%) to 200+ employees (10%). One-in-ten (10%) was retired or unemployed (11%), and three percent (3%) were full-time, stay-at-home parents.

eHealth’s Baby Boomer Survey can be downloaded in full here or through the eHealth, Inc. Media Center. The URL for the report is: http://news.ehealthinsurance.com/pr/ehi/document/eHealth-BoomerSurvey_091312-3_.pdf

Medicare has not reviewed or endorsed this information

About Nate Purpura

Nate Purpura is a 15-year veteran of print and broadcast journalism, corporate communications, PR and internet marketing. He’s spent the last decade working in the health care and insurance industries. Over fifteen years he’s covered numerous areas of health care including pharmaceuticals, health and wellness programs, chronic disease management programs, cutting-edge diagnostic tools, Medicare and health insurance, and online marketplaces (exchanges).

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