Press Release

Embargoed Until Contact

July 18, 2012

Sue Ducat
Director of Communications
(301) 841-9962


From Health Affairs


Survey Finds Medicare Beneficiaries Are Better Off Than Adults With Private Coverage


Bethesda, MD -- New analysis of a national survey on consumer experiences with health coverage compared the responses of Medicare beneficiaries to nonelderly adults covered by private coverage and found that those in the Medicare group were more satisfied with their insurance, less likely to report cost- or access-related problems, and more likely to report receiving excellent quality of care. The results were released today as a Web First in Health Affairs; the study will also appear in the journal’s August issue.


Medicare Beneficiaries Less Likely To Experience Cost- And Access-Related Problems Than Adults With Private Coverage

By Karen Davis, Kristof Stremikis, Michelle M. Doty, and Mark A. Zezza

All the authors are affiliated with The Commonwealth Fund, in New York City. Davis, its president, is also a member of the boards of directors for Geisinger Health System, Geisinger Health Plan, and ProMedica Health System.


The study data came from The Commonwealth Fund 2010 Health Insurance Survey, a nationwide telephone survey of adults nineteen or older; the interviews took place between July and November of 2010. The final sample included 3,033 adults under the age of 65 and 940 adults age 65 and older. In addition to comparing non-Medicare and Medicare beneficiaries, the authors also looked for differences in experiences between those with traditional Medicare and those with private Medicare Advantage plans. Some of the key findings include:


  • Eight percent of Medicare beneficiaries rated their insurance as fair or poor compared to 20 percent of nonelderly adults with employer insurance and 33 percent purchasing insurance on the individual market. Among Medicare beneficiaries, only 6 percent of those with traditional Medicare gave a fair or poor rating, compared to 15 percent of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries.

  • Thirty-seven percent of working adults with employer-sponsored coverage reported at least one access problem due to cost, compared to 23 percent of elderly adults with Medicare. Among Medicare beneficiaries, those with traditional plans were significantly less likely to report problems accessing care than those opting for Medicare Advantage (23 percent versus 32 percent).

  • For those with employer insurance, 27 percent reported difficulties paying bills, compared to 13 percent of Medicare beneficiaries. Just one-quarter (25 percent) of adults with employer-sponsored coverage reported receiving excellent quality of care, compared to 37 percent of elderly Medicare beneficiaries. Those with individual (17 percent) and no health insurance (12 percent) reported receiving excellent care at the lowest rates.

  • In describing access to a primary provider, 64 percent of Medicare beneficiaries and 51 percent of those with employer-based insurance said they had a regular doctor or place of care; only 26 percent of those without insurance claimed this degree of access to care.

“The evidence reported here…shows that Medicare is doing a better job than employer-sponsored plans at fulfilling the two main purposes of health insurance: ensuring access to care and providing financial protection,” conclude the authors. “In the policy debates over the federal budget deficit, the affordability of Medicare, and the expansion of health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, it is important to listen to what people have to say about being covered by Medicare or private employer insurance.”

About Health Affairs

Health Affairs is the leading journal at the intersection of health, health care, and policy. Published by Project HOPE, the peer-reviewed journal appears each month in print, with additional Web First papers published periodically and health policy briefs published twice monthly at You can also find the journal on Facebook and Twitter. Read daily perspectives on Health Affairs Blog. Download weekly Narrative Matters podcasts on iTunes.

The full text of each Health Affairs Web First paper is available free of charge to all Web-site visitors for a two-week period following posting, after which it switches to pay-per-view for nonsubscribers. Web First papers are supported in part by a grant from The Commonwealth Fund.