On September 20, eHealth released an interesting survey that explains why Medicare Reform is not the issue I think it should be in the upcoming presidential election, particularly among voters 40-65 years of age. The leading online insurance broker found
- 60% of baby boomers think Medicare works just like regular health insurance
- 30% of baby boomers think Medicare is free
- 77% thought a person can enroll in Medicare any time after they're 65, without penalty
- 19% thought Medicare "covers everything" (not sure what that finding meant since traditional Medicare not only doesn't cover much, it doesn't pay much for what it covers relative to healthcare insurance this group would typically be aware of
Of course this eHealth group is all wrong about Medicare.
About half of people in the 40-65 age group truly have no reason to care about Medicare Reform. About 35%-40% will get their healthcare insurance from an employer after retirement (although the cost will get steeper and steeper for the same reason Medicare cost sharing is predicted to rise) and 10%-15% are on "free Medicaid" today and will transition to "free Medicare" or Medicare supplemented by Medicaid when they reach 65.
But the eHealth group is the demogrphic that should worry most about Medicare Reform. If they are buying their insurance indvidually today from a group like eHealth that probably means they will not be getting insurance from a former employer after they retire. This is the group that if they got behind almost any of the proposed Medicare Reforms (Wyden-Ryan 2012, Ryan-Rivlin 2010, Rivlin-Domenici 2010, Brookings 1995, etc.) would change today's Democratic Party Medicare so that
- Medicare does work like regular health insurance (Wyden and Ryan propose Medicare work like the insurance system the two Congressmen use themselves)
- The baby boomers would have a choice of a Medicare policy that "covers everything" (of course it would be expensive just like a policy that covers everything today is expensive; for a senior citizen today that means cobbling together a Medigap policy on top of the two traditional Medicare policies plus a Part D plan plus long-term-care insurance plus dental insurance plus plus...
-- Dennis Byron