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2021 Annual Medicare Report

GoHealth’s yearly report examines issues impacting Americans and Medicare

Few events have tested the modern American healthcare system quite like the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the vulnerable Medicare population. Vaccines and basic social protocols have allowed older Americans to inch back to pre-pandemic normalcy. Still, signs point to other lifestyle and financial challenges felt by older Americans looking to reset and rebuild.

In July 2021, GoHealth released the results of the “Annual Medicare Report.” The online survey reflects 2,000 interviews regarding opinions, concerns and behaviors related to Medicare. One thousand people were 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare. One thousand people were aged 62 or older and not enrolled in Medicare.

Older Americans have more confidence in the healthcare system this year but have less money to pay for it


In 2020

Were concerned another COVID-19 outbreak or surge could impact the health care system and their access

Now just


In 2021

Shared the same concerns

Older Americans are gaining confidence in the healthcare system’s ability to provide the services they need despite the pandemic. But while confidence in their ability to access healthcare may be improving, their ability to afford it appears to be getting worse. Though the study suggests this is an issue for both Medicare beneficiaries and those nearing eligibility, the challenges seem to be felt more by those not yet enrolled in the Government-funded health insurance program.


24% to 15%

People nearing eligibility were more likely to report having to choose between paying household bills and medical bills than those already enrolled in Medicare. In 2020, just 15% of those nearing eligibility shared this concern.


Of those nearing eligibility

Are unable to pay their healthcare expenses each month


Of Medicare beneficiaries

Are unable to pay their healthcare expenses each month

While Medicare beneficiaries may be better off than those nearing eligibility, they also have experienced hardships over the past year. Nearly 10% of Medicare beneficiaries could not pay all their healthcare expenses each month. Prescription drugs are the item they most often forgo due to cost.

While these numbers aren’t insignificant, they show Medicare beneficiaries have fared better financially over the last year than those nearing eligibility — and their opinions of the system seem to reflect this fiscal stability.


Of Medicare beneficiaries

Said their Medicare coverage is a bargain


Said: “It’s better”

Medicare beneficiaries, when asked to compare Medicare to their previous coverage


Said: “It’s as good”

Medicare beneficiaries, when asked to compare Medicare to their previous coverage

Medicare education: lack of experience may hurt those nearing eligibility

This year’s survey points to a general lack of knowledge in the Medicare system for those not yet eligible to enroll, especially when it comes to enrollment itself.



Responded “I don’t know” when asked what the work requirement is for Medicare eligibility (40 quarters or 10 years)


Just 5%

Answered correctly when asked how old their spouse must be for you to receive benefits based on their work history (62 years old)

These knowledge gaps may lead to mistakes or inaction when signing up for Medicare, which can bring some hefty enrollment penalties for Parts A, B and D. The Part B late enrollment penalty, for example, adds 10% to a beneficiaries’ monthly premium for every 12-month period they do not enroll when eligible during open or special enrollment periods. Parts A and D also have their own late enrollment penalties.

Unfortunately, many of those nearing Medicare eligibility are unaware of the late enrollment penalties they could face.


Said, “I don’t know”

Respondents nearing eligibility, when asked if they knew the potential cost penalty for not signing up for Medicare Part A on time


Said “I don’t know”

Respondents nearing eligibility, when asked if they knew the potential cost penalty for not signing up for Medicare Part B on time

Making informed decisions on all the details of Medicare takes a commitment to learning the ins and outs of the different plans and enrollment guidelines. Confusion doesn’t end with Part A penalties or new Medicare members only.


Of Medicare beneficiaries

said they “felt overwhelmed by the idea of picking the right Medicare plan.”

How did they cope? One way was to seek guidance from licensed agents, which saw a notable jump in activity over 2020.



Medicare beneficiaries who said they worked with a Medicare specialist/agent over the phone or in person in 2021 (compared to 36% in 2020)



Medicare beneficiaries who said having a Medicare Specialist give advice or make recommendations would make the enrollment process easier

A return to pre-pandemic behaviors outweighing COVID-19 fears

Last year, nearly half (49%) of all Medicare beneficiaries surveyed said they would be open to seeing their doctor virtually, but that percentage dipped to 36% in 2021. The percentage of beneficiaries unwilling to see their doctors virtually also grew, from 31% in 2020 to 39% in 2021.

Why? Older Americans feel comfortable enough to resume their preferred, more traditional forms of medical care, even with the continued and evolving risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.



Of Medicare beneficiaries didn’t skip even a single medical appointment in 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns (compared to 45% in 2020)



Of Medicare beneficiaries said COVID-19 made it difficult to receive medical care in 2021, down from 22% in 2020



Said they prefer meeting with their doctor face to face (among respondents who said they were unwilling to meet with their doctor virtually)

GoHealth 2021 Annual State of Medicare Report

Click here for GoHealth's full report: "2021 Annual State of Medicare"

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