The oldest baby boomers turn 62 this year and can start collecting Social Security benefits, but many aren't sure what benefits await them or how they work.

   According to a survey of boomers done by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), only 36% know that Medicare eligibility begins at age 65, while 21% thought it began at age 62. Nine percent believe it begins at age 67, 6% said age 59½, and 28% weren't sure.

   Furthermore, the 84% of surveyed boomers said that access to health insurance was important when choosing a retirement date, but only 43% felt the same way about Medicare.

   Based in Kansas City, Mo., the NAIC is a voluntary organization of the chief insurance regulatory officials of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. It surveyed 377 boomers across the U.S.

   Among other things, the survey also revealed a considerable lack of familiarity with Medicare's coverage options. For example, 66% of respondents said they were "not very familiar" or "not at all familiar" with options such as Medicare Part B, Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare prescription drug coverage and Medicare supplement (Medigap) insurance. This number jumped to 72% among younger baby boomers ages 44 to 54.

   Adding to the uncertainty, 82% said they don't think there will be enough money for Medicare to provide the healthcare services they anticipate needing throughout their retirement. 

   Medicare covers more than 40 million Americans and is nation's largest health insurance program. The federally-funded program is available to Americans 65 years of age and older, regardless of their eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits. Some people can qualify for Medicare before 65-such as the disabled-depending on their physical health.

   Medicare is divided into four parts, each with different coverage options, including hospital insurance (Part A), medical insurance (Part B), Medicare Advantage (Part C) and prescription drug coverage (Part D). Although many Americans do not pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part A, individuals seeking additional coverage options under Parts B, C and D typically pay a monthly premium.  

   For more information, visit NAIC at: