Medicare enrollees, overwhelmed and frustrated with the program's process and plan components, are choosing to stick with their current plan rather than review their options and re-enroll annually, according to a survey commissioned by Healthpilot, an AI platform that helps clients and advisors select Medicare plans.

More than half (58%) do not bother to review their plan options or shop for new plans, the report said, noting that such action puts millions at risk of being in a plan that is no longer a good fit for their financial or health needs.

The report, "Hidden Crisis: The Medicare Enrollment Maze," explored the impact of widespread confusion and overwhelming enrollment challenges on older Americans, as well as the healthcare system. It found that only 20% of respondents have a good understanding of Original Medicare and only 31% have a good understanding of Medicare Advantage.

Original Medicare, also known as Traditional Medicare, is a fee-for-service program offered directly through the federal government that pays providers for services. It covers Part A (inpatient/hospital coverage) and Part B (outpatient/medical coverage). Prescriptions, vision and dental are separate. On the other hand, Medical Advantage, also known as Part C, provides Medicare coverage from a private health plan that contracts with the federal government. It includes Part A and Part B and typically offers Part D prescription drug coverage.
While three-quarters of respondents indicated that they felt strongly or somewhat confident they could choose the right plan for their unique needs, the report found that four out of five incorrectly identified Original Medicare components and two out of three misidentified components of Medicare Advantage. The youngest respondents (64-year-olds) were the least knowledgeable, the report found.

Sixty-three percent said the amount of Medicare advertising was too much to digest. Thirty percent strongly agree that they can easily find the information needed to make effective plan decisions, and only 28% strongly agree that they can keep up with plan option updates and easily calculate out-of-pocket costs for their plan.

“This report shows the striking level of confusion surrounding Medicare enrollment for all ages. While there may be many better plan options, very few enrollees have the necessary knowledge to choose them,” said Dan D’Orazio, CEO of healthcare consultant Sage Growth Partners, which conducted the survey for Healpilot. “The level of satisfaction with shopping for Medicare plans lies below the cellar-dwellers of industry satisfaction such as cable TV providers and internet shopping. This is very troubling considering what is at stake for older adults and their clinical and financial health."

Financial advisors, the report noted, can play a key role in assisting seniors with Medicare plan selection. It found that 33% of Medicare-eligible individuals have a financial advisor, but only 2% use them to help with plan selection.

The report said that among those who use an advisor, 92% trust them to select the right Medicare plan; 83% of respondents said they would trust their advisor’s recommendation of an online tool to compare Medicare plans; and 61%  would be very or extremely comfortable using an online tool if their advisor recommended it.

The survey was conducted in April and included 1,142 individuals ages 64 and older.