Survey: Many Medicare beneficiaries fear receiving a surprise medical bill

A majority of Medicare beneficiaries are worried about getting a surprise medical bill as Congress ponders how to handle the issue.

A survey from the online insurance exchange eHealth found that 63% of beneficiaries are worried about getting hit with a surprise bill. Other major concerns included rising cost-sharing and out-of-pocket expenses.

“Our survey shows that surprise medical bills aren't only a concern for the pre-Medicare population but for Medicare enrollees as well," said eHealth CEO Scott Flanders in a statement.

After surprise medical bills, other top worries for Medicare beneficiaries were their provider not being in-network (38%), paying their deductible (35%) and their copays (29%).

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eHealth also found that concerns around out-of-pocket costs are bigger for Medicare Advantage plans than for supplement plan enrollees, with 38% of MA enrollees worried about deductibles compared to 29% of those enrolled in supplement plans.

In addition, 34% of MA enrollees are worried about their copay compared with 22% for supplement plan holders.

RELATED: Seniors on Medicare Advantage less likely to have issues paying medical bills: CDC study

However, premiums were not as big of a deal for MA enrollees. Only 18% of MA plan holders were concerned about their monthly premium compared with 23% for Medicare supplement plan holders.

Premiums for the 2020 coverage year for MA plans were the lowest since 2007 and down by 14% compared to 2019, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

eHealth also pinpointed how seniors prefer to shop for Medicare plans. More than half of respondents (55%) said they want to use a combination of online tools and an agent to choose a plan, another 23% prefer to do research entirely online and 23% want to work with just an agent.

RELATED: CMS touts performance of updated Medicare plan finder during open enrollment

eHealth also found that the coverage of preferred doctors is of growing importance for customers, as 31% said that coverage was the most important consideration for picking a plan. That is up from 20% in February 2019.

The results are based on a survey of 1,086 people who purchased Medicare coverage through eHealth.

Congress is in a quagmire over how to get rid of surprise medical bills. Several House committees are clashing over how to pay providers for any out-of-network charges, with payers favoring a benchmark rate for such charges and providers wanting “baseball-style” arbitration.