8 in 10 Older Americans Believe They Are Prepared to Age Well, But Need Help Understanding Their Benefits and Navigating the Health Care System
Three in five older Americans find some aspect of the health care system difficult to navigate; 42 percent believe better understanding their insurance benefits would empower them to better manage their health
For Immediate Release
Contact: Joellen Leavelle, jleavelle@n4a.org and (202) 872-0888

INDIANAPOLIS and WASHINGTON – SEPTEMBER 25, 2019 – A majority of older Americans (ages 60+) (79%) are prepared to age well, but nearly 7 in 10 (68%) are at least somewhat concerned about their health as they age, and nearly half (46%) need help understanding their health insurance benefits once they have chosen a plan. A survey conducted by The Harris Poll, commissioned by Anthem, Inc. and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), reveals that while most respondents are confident in some aspects of navigating the health care system, there is opportunity for better understanding of their benefits, bill, diagnosis and treatment. An infographic outlining the survey results is available here.
Older Americans Express Confidence in Health Insurance, Health Providers to Guide Their Health Decisions
Among the respondents, which included U.S. adults ages 60 and older, 65 percent reported that they had some type of Medicare insurance coverage. More than 8 in 10 older adults expressed confidence regarding:
  • Finding a provider that accepts their insurance (88%)
  • Understanding insurance options available to them (84%)
  • Understanding their health insurance benefits (83%)
Despite this confidence, 42 percent believe better understanding their insurance benefits would empower them to better manage their health.
Many older adults (59%) still find at least one thing difficult when navigating the health care system, such as understanding their benefits; understanding their diagnoses and deciding on treatment; and communicating effectively with their health care providers. They currently seek out the following resources to help them better navigate the health care system:
  • Talking to their doctor (43%)
  • Consulting their health insurance provider (26%)
  • Having a patient navigator who helps them navigate the logistics of their care and the health care system (23%)
Over Half of Non-Retired Older Americans Need More Help Understanding Benefits vs. Retirees
Employment plays a large role for older Americans when it comes to understanding their health care plans. According to the survey:
  • More than half of non-retired older adults at least somewhat agree that they need help understanding their benefits once they have chosen a plan, compared to about two in five retired adults (54% vs. 41%, respectively).
  • More than three in five non-retired adults would like to work with a Medicare education counselor to help them understand and better use their health insurance benefits compared to fewer than half of retired adults (61% vs. 47%, respectively).
Women Report Greater Challenges in Managing Their Care; Men More Likely to Ask for Help
Detailed findings highlight unique attitudes and challenges that each gender experiences when it comes to understanding, affording and accessing care. 
According to the survey, women are more likely than men to report at least one challenge with navigating the health care system (65% vs. 52%, respectively), such as communicating effectively with their health care provider, knowing their health plan benefits, and understanding their diagnoses and treatments.
In addition, women are less likely than men to feel confident about having all the information they need to make health insurance decisions (77% vs. 84%, respectively). Men are more likely than women to agree that consulting their health insurance provider to better utilize the system would help them navigate the health care system better (31% vs. 23%, respectively). 
Survey of Adult Caregivers* Cites Low Confidence in Navigating System; Limited Understanding of Benefits
A complementary survey fielded by The Harris Poll among adult caregivers (U.S. adults ages 18+ who have care recipients) found this group has lower confidence navigating the health care system than older adults.

Specifically, the survey found that nearly eight in ten (79%) caregivers believe that they would be better able to help the person they care for manage their health if they better understood their care recipient’s benefits. Caregivers surveyed identified several options that would help them better navigate the health care system on behalf of individuals, including: talking to the person’s doctor; reading reviews and other self-help tools; and consulting the health insurance provider to which the person they’re caring for belongs.
Despite identifying several options that would help them better navigate the health care system, 77 percent of caregivers surveyed consider the health insurance provider of the person they care for as a partner in their healthy aging.
Experts Collaborate to Provide Resources to Older Americans and Caregivers
“Our goal is to simplify the health care experience, so that all Americans feel empowered to manage their health and fully utilize their benefits,” said Martin Esquivel, Vice President, Product Management at Anthem’s Medicare Business. “Anthem continually develops programs that aim to make it easier for Medicare-eligible individuals and the people who support them to better understand Medicare plans and how the services available can help consumers improve their well-being. Giving individuals access to high-quality, affordable health care services is a responsibility that we take to heart.”
“Each year, local Area Agencies on Aging serve and support millions of people across the country who are having difficulty understanding and navigating the health care system and their benefits,” says Sandy Markwood, n4a CEO. “As the go-to organization for answers on aging at the local level, n4a’s members know how important it is to engage in dialogue with older adults and understand the barriers they confront in receiving the health care information that they need and deserve. This is why, in partnership with Anthem, we commissioned this survey and we look forward to working together to address these obstacles.”
Anthem’s affiliated health plans are continually expanding their Medicare plan offerings and services to support older adults as well as help their caregivers. These Medicare health plans offer resources that may include services such as access to associates who help individuals understand their Medicare options and case managers who assist with care coordination and other similar services.
n4a members across the country are providing answers on aging through a range of resources including Information and Referral lines and Medicare education and counseling programs, to name just a few. Area Agencies on Aging already help older adults and caregivers navigate local resources for healthy aging and are increasingly providing care coordination and other services for health care payers and providers. Most importantly, Area Agencies on Aging are trusted resources for impartial information about one’s options, whether that’s for in-home supportive services or which Medicare plan is right for you.
To learn more about Anthem and n4a and access resources available from Anthem and n4a, please visit www.antheminc.com and www.n4a.org, respectively.
About the Survey
The survey of older Americans was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Anthem from November 8-18, 2018 among 1,038 U.S. adults ages 60+. The complementary survey of caregivers was conducted online from December 18-20, 2018 among 2,018 U.S. adults ages 18+, of whom, 770 have a care recipient (someone for whom they provide support or counsel related to health care decisions who is currently eligible for Medicare, i.e., aged 65+, or under 65 and also receiving Social Security Disability Insurance).
For complete research method, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Hieu Nguyen at hieu.nguyen2@anthem.com.
About the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging is a 501(c)(3) membership association representing America’s national network of 622 Area Agencies on Aging and providing a voice in the nation’s capital for the Title VI Native American aging programs. The mission of n4a is to build the capacity of its members so they can better help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible. For more information, visit www.n4a.org and follow @n4aACTION on Facebook and Twitter.
About Anthem, Inc.
Anthem is a leading health benefits company dedicated to improving lives and communities, and making health care simpler. Through its affiliated companies, Anthem serves more than 78 million people, including over 40 million within its family of health plans. We aim to be the most innovative, valuable and inclusive partner. For more information, please visit www.antheminc.com or follow @AnthemInc on Twitter.
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*Adults ages 18+ who provide support or counsel related to health care decisions to someone in their life who is currently eligible for Medicare, i.e., aged 65 or older, or under 65 and also receiving Social Security Disability Insurance

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