Medicare HealthPulse Poll

in Association with Silverlink Communications



Silverlink-Suffolk University Poll Shows Major Disconnect Between Seniors’ Expectations and the Reality of 2010 Plan Year Changes in Medicare

Most Seniors Express High Degree of Satisfaction with Current Health Plan Benefits
August 18, 2009 (Boston, MA and Burlington, MA) – Seniors in the U.S. are overwhelmingly satisfied with their current Medicare coverage, according to a survey released today by Silverlink Communications and Suffolk University in Boston.  Of the more than 2,600 Medicare beneficiaries surveyed, more than 94% indicate that they are satisfied with their coverage, with just 6% expressing dissatisfaction. These same Seniors express a fair amount of optimism that their health plan benefits will stay the same (55%) or improve (12%) in 2010 – with only one-third thinking that their health plan benefits will get worse next year.  As a result, many (85%) are not currently considering switching health plans this year.

“Judging from the reaction from the recent healthcare Town Hall meetings, we expect a very vocal Medicare population in October when the 11 million beneficiaries on Medicare Advantage start getting information on how their benefits and premiums will change in 2010,” said Donna Burtanger, Senior Director of Medicare Solutions, at Silverlink Communications.  “Our work with Medicare plans confirms that significant changes to rates and plan structure are in store for many beneficiaries, stemming from the well-publicized federal reduction in reimbursements to Medicare plans earlier this year. Based on our research, it is clear that most Medicare beneficiaries don’t expect the changes that are coming for the 2010 plan year.  Many may even be blindsided by what they see,” she added. 

Burtanger warned that these circumstances could lead to an extremely tumultuous open enrollment period this Fall when Medicare recipients, who indicate that out-of-pocket costs are the most important criteria for choosing a plan, are likely to be shocked and anxious over rate increases and other plan changes. She added, “Communication and education efforts are more imperative than ever this year to make sure Medicare beneficiaries understand all available options.”    

The survey also polled Medicare recipients on healthcare reform.  Despite high levels of satisfaction and relatively strong amounts of optimism, nearly half of Medicare recipients polled (48%) say they do not believe the Obama administration is looking out for their best interests when it comes to healthcare reform. The remaining are split, with 28% believing the administration is looking out for them and 24% unsure.    


David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, commented: “There’s an interesting split in those trusting the current reform efforts and those who are uncertain or doubtful of these efforts. We see that wealthier and more educated Medicare recipients tend to be less optimistic about their interests being considered in the reform process, while those in the Northeast are more positive than other regions on healthcare reform.”    

The Silverlink-Suffolk University Medicare Beneficiary Insights poll asked Medicare recipients a variety of questions to better understand satisfaction with their current health plan coverage, whether they were considering switching plans for the 2010 plan year, what were important factors in choosing a plan, and whether they thought their benefits would change in the coming year. Other questions probed how much time would be spent researching health plans and what sources are viewed as trustworthy when researching health plan options. Finally, the survey asked about the current administration and healthcare reform.


The following insights highlight the key findings of the survey.

  • There is an extremely high level of satisfaction (94%) among Medicare beneficiaries relative to their current health plan coverage.  This holds true for those enrolled in traditional Medicare as well as those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans.
  • The vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries (85%) are not currently planning to switch plans this year and the majority will spend minimal time (two hours or less) researching health plan options.  This is, by and large, the same amount of time as in previous years.
  • There is no single “trusted” source for Medicare recipients as they research health plan options.  Doctors and interest groups (e.g. AARP) are the two most popular trusted sources, while health plan websites are not generally a trusted source.
  • A majority (55%) of Medicare beneficiaries believe their health benefits will stay the same in 2010.  One-third anticipate that their benefits will worsen.
  • Almost half (48%) of the Medicare beneficiaries do not believe that the Obama administration has their best interests in mind as it considers healthcare reform.
  • Out-of-pocket costs are the single most important factor (26% of those surveyed) when choosing a health plan.
  • Medicare recipients do not use the Internet pervasively to search for health information.  Only 26% indicate that they have used the Internet for this purpose.

Several interesting insights emerge when the data are cut by demographic variables, including age, gender, region, income and education. The complete results of this survey including all crosstabs and frequencies are available for download below.

HealthPulse Survey Methodology

The Medicare Beneficiary Insights poll is the second in a series of HealthPulse surveys conducted in partnership between Suffolk University and Silverlink Communications.  Data was collected on July 14, 15, and 17, 2009, from 2,628 adults across the United States. The sample was drawn from a list of 50,000 U.S. citizens. The survey data is weighted to be representative of the U.S. 65+ population as described in the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 Current Population Survey. This research continues the ongoing pursuit of healthcare consumer insights by Suffolk University and Silverlink Communications.   The 95% confidence interval for overall results is no more than 1.91% in either direction from what would have been obtained by polling all American adults.  For smaller subgroups, the margin of sampling error is larger.  In addition to sampling error, the practical difficulties of conducting any survey of public opinion may introduce other sources of error into the poll.  

About Silverlink

Silverlink knows the healthcare consumer – and we know every point of contact offers a chance to impact their behavior. Our solutions are trusted by 80 of the nation’s largest and most influential health plans, pharmacy benefit managers, and population health companies to build stronger relationships with consumers and dramatically lower costs. Silverlink’s unique approach combines real-time consumer interactions, behavioral insights and process innovation to unlock the value that consumers represent in healthcare’s complex cost equation.  To learn more about what makes Silverlink the leader in healthcare consumer communications, please visit, email, or call 1.781.425.5700.  

About Suffolk University

Suffolk University, located on Boston’s historic Beacon Hill, with campuses in Madrid and Dakar, Senegal (Africa), is a comprehensive global institution distinguished by its teaching and the intellectual contributions of its faculty. Suffolk offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs in more than 70 areas of study.  Its mission is to provide quality education at a reasonable cost for students of all ages and backgrounds, with strong emphasis on diversity.      


Silverlink is a registered trademark of Silverlink Communications Inc.  All other brand and product names contained in this release may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders.


Marginals (PDF)

Cross Tabs

Cross Tabs (PDF)