As Open Enrollment Kicks Off, Charleston Seniors Still Lag Far Behind National Average in Medicare Advantage Participation

Last week, Clover Health revealed that only 21% of seniors in Charleston County are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. This figure has remained stagnant since 2015, despite massive increases in nationwide enrollment in recent years.

As of September 2018, 75,203 adults in Charleston County were eligible for Medicare — a population increase of almost 10 percent since 2017. However, Charleston residents remain enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans at much lower rates compared to their peers in South Carolina as a whole (27%) and nationwide (34%).

Medicare Advantage plans are part of the official Medicare system, but they typically provide far more benefits than traditional Medicare, often at lower prices. Beyond that, these plans can provide substantial hospital and doctor visit coverage, low premiums, personalized care, and a wealth of additional benefits — including prescription drug coverage, in-home checkups and vision, dental and hearing care — not covered by traditional Medicare.

Clover Health polled adults 60 and older in Charleston to determine the reasons behind the critical gap in enrollment. Among those eligible but not enrolled, many respondents said they were simply unfamiliar with Medicare Advantage. Other reasons included not wanting to change doctors and thinking the plans are too expensive.

“Clover Health is committed to ensuring Charleston seniors have access to the best possible care,” said Jon-Michael Troche, Head of Charleston Operations, Clover Health. “Many seniors do not even realize that there are options outside of traditional Medicare. It is our goal to make sure that the 79% of Charleston’s seniors that are not enrolled in Medicare Advantage don’t miss out on the care and benefits that many across the country have already discovered.”

As Medicare Advantage premiums continue to decrease and plan options and benefits continue to increase, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates enrollment will grow to 22.6 million in 2019, an 11.5 percent increase compared to 2018.

Charleston seniors eligible for Medicare can sign up for one of Clover’s comprehensive Medicare Advantage plans during the annual enrollment period, which begins on October 15 and runs through December 7.

The survey from Clover, a healthcare company using technology to improve medical outcomes, was conducted by Wakefield Research of 300 adults ages 60 and older in Charleston. The survey was administered from September 18, 2018, through September 28, 2018.

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