Survey Finds Medicare Doesn't Work As Well for Younger, Disabled Beneficiaries

A new (2010) survey of nearly 4,000 Medicare beneficiaries has found that Medicare beneficiaries who are younger than 65 receive fewer medical services, have a harder time paying for the medical care that they do receive, and are more likely to feel sad or depressed than older beneficiaries. The survey, which was conducted between 2008 and 2009, also highlights the disparity between younger and older beneficiaries when it comes to finding a doctor. Twelve percent of younger beneficiaries claimed that they had difficulty finding a doctor who would accept Medicare, compared to only 4 percent of senior respondents who reported similar problems.

In addition to being the principal health care insurance program for people 65 years of age and over, Medicare covers people of any age who are permanently disabled or who have end-stage renal disease. The 3,913 survey respondents included 2,288 non-institutionalized Medicare recipients under age 65 and 1,625 recipients over age 65. The authors of the study point out that, compared to the elderly recipients, the younger Medicare recipients were more racially diverse, had lower incomes, less education and were in worse physical condition, likely because the younger recipients gained access to Medicare after being deemed permanently disabled and were unable to work.

The survey highlighted several areas where younger beneficiaries deviated significantly from their older counterparts. For instance, one-half of the younger respondents had problems paying for medical services in the year prior to the survey, but only 18 percent of seniors had the same difficulty. Likewise, the younger beneficiaries had a harder time finding Medicare Part D prescription drug plans that would cover their medications. However, the study did find that dual eligible Medicare beneficiaries -- those who receive both Medicaid and Medicare -- reported fewer problems with cost and access to services when compared to beneficiaries who received only Medicare.

The study was conducted by Juliette Cubanski and Patricia Neuman who both work for the Medicare Policy Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation. It is available for free online for the next several weeks, after which readers can purchase access to the study for a nominal fee. To read the study, click here.

For more legal information and assistance for those with special needs, visit our SpecialNeedsAnswers Web site at While some ElderLawAnswers attorneys practice in this area of the law, all attorneys listed on SpecialNeedsAnswers devote a significant part of their practices to working with individuals with special needs and with their families to plan for the future.