Elderly supportive of Medicare coverage

WASHINGTON — Elderly Americans on Medicare are substantially happier with their insurance coverage than their younger counterparts who rely on commercial insurance, according to a new national survey.

Only 8 percent of Medicare beneficiaries 65 or over rated their coverage “fair” or “poor,” the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund found.

By comparison, 20 percent of those with employer-based coverage gave their insurance plan low marks. And 33 percent of people who bought insurance on their own reported unhappiness with their coverage.

“There are a lot of myths out there,” said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis, the lead author of the report published in the journal Health Affairs. “It is important to remember how well Medicare performs.”

The findings come as Washington policymakers prepare for a renewed debate over the future of the program that covers about 50 million elderly and disabled Americans.

Republicans want to convert Medicare into what they call a “premium support” program that gives beneficiaries vouchers to buy a private insurance plan of their choosing.

“Choice and competition remain the only means by which costs can be brought under control without sacrificing quality,” House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., recently told with the conservative newspaper Human Events.

Those on Medicare are also more likely to rate the quality of their care as excellent and less likely to report problems paying their medical bills or accessing needed care because of cost.

Researchers found more mixed results comparing the attitudes of seniors in traditional Medicare with those in Medicare Advantage who have signed up for a private health insurance plan to administer their benefits. Only 6 percent of those in traditional Medicare rated their insurance “fair” or “poor,” while 15 percent gave their Advantage plan that assessment.

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