Survey: Consumers Open to Medicare Restrictions

A new survey out of California suggests patients are willing to accept restrictions to Medicare, though they also want the program to expand coverage in a handful of areas.

A new survey out of California suggests patients are willing to accept restrictions to Medicare, though they also want the program to expand coverage in a handful of areas.

The study was conducted by the Center for Healthcare Decisions and LeadingAge California. The 2 agencies created a tool called MedCHAT, which led the 810 survey participants on a 3-hour simulation in which they were asked to design a benefits plan that fit within certain financial limits.

Given that scenario, most patients were willing to accept restrictions. For instance, 82% said they support the idea of defined networks, so long as out-of-network referrals could be covered when their primary care physician requests it.

A strong majority (88%) said value should be one factor when it comes to the treatment of complex chronic decisions. Patients should pay more when a proposed treatment has little benefit and a high cost, respondents said.

Notably, they disagreed when the condition was brought on by a sudden catastrophic event. In those cases, less than half supported value-based restrictions.

On the other end of the spectrum, patients had many ideas about how to spend any money saved from those restrictions.

Three-quarters (77%) said Medicare should cover at least one year of long-term care for those with physical or mental impairments. Eighty-five percent said the program should cover dental, vision, and hearing treatment. Meanwhile, 81% said the program should cover transportation costs for those unable to transport themselves to appointments.

The survey respondents ranged in age from young adults to seniors and included those with professional healthcare experience and those without.

The study’s authors found the most unanimity when they looked at long-term care. About two-thirds (65%) said those with incurable or terminal illnesses ought to be entitled to hospice and palliative care, but only one-third (31%) said those patients should be entitled to treatments that won’t likely make a difference.

“Participants did not believe that doctors should offer life-sustaining treatment when the likelihood of failure is great and suffering is likely,” the authors wrote. “They also believed there were better ways to use Medicare dollars.”