Express Scripts survey finds gaps in seniors' knowledge about health insurance exchanges

Retailers like Rite Aid and CVS already launching patient-education efforts

ST. LOUIS — Many seniors mistakenly think that health insurance exchanges will replace Medicare, according to a new survey, which attributes much of the confusion to "conflicting chatter" about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The survey, conducted in August by pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts and titled 50 States of Confusion, comes as the OCT. 1, launch of the exchanges draws near. It included 1,101 seniors currently enrolled in a Medicare plan or who would be eligible for one within 12 months.

One-in-five think they can enroll in a medical and prescription drug plan through a health insurance exchange, even though eligibility ends at age 65, while 17% think the exchanges will replace their Medicare plan altogether.

Seniors are also convinced their healthcare dollars must be better managed, the survey found. Of the 46% making changes to ensure they can afford health care, 78% are adjusting their budgets, and 40% are considering temporary employment. Twenty percent are skipping doctor's appointments, 18% are delaying medication refills, and 14% are skipping doses — all choices that could have adverse effects.

"The conflicting chatter about healthcare reform has seniors confused about what actions they need to take this fall and concerned about their finances," Express Scripts VP government programs Rebecca Rabbitt said. "We need to close this knowledge gap so seniors can make informed decisions about their health and their Medicaid benefits."

Some pharmacy retailers have already sought to address the issue and educate patients about the health insurance programs, with Rite Aid and CVS having sponsored events with Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius to announce them. Rite Aid, is bringing insurance agents into its stores to talk to customers and help them enroll, while CVS will sponsor in-store events.

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