A resurgence of coronavirus cases has many holiday plans going haywire. But it’s not just family gatherings that have been impacted by COVID-19.
The 2020 Open Enrollment season is halfway over, and many Americans -- including those eligible for Medicare -- are rethinking their healthcare coverage, according to recent surveys from healthinsurance.com. They’re also changing their attitudes towards how they receive health care in a post-coronavirus world.
Even while progress is made on a vaccine for COVID-19, states across the U.S. are seeing a spike in cases. Still, 59% of recent survey respondents said they planned to have Thanksgiving in person this year. Just 20% planned to have a virtual Turkey Day instead. A good chunk of Americans (41%) weren't sure what they would do this year, with half reporting COVID-19 as the main reason behind their uncertainty.
With 4 in 10 saying they are experiencing “pandemic fatigue,” it’s no wonder so many are unwilling to sacrifice time with family this Thanksgiving -- despite the Centers for Disease Control recommendation that people avoid travel.
Even if many people aren’t rethinking family time, the pandemic has certainly caused them to recalculate how much they plan to spend on gifts this year. 40% say they’ll be spending less, and 57% won’t be shopping in person on Black Friday.
For the family gatherings that are still taking place, it looks like health insurance could dominate the conversation around the dinner table -- no surprise, considering we’re facing a health pandemic. Younger generations are particularly concerned with their parents Medicare coverage. Right now, seniors have until December 7 to switch their Medicare coverage -- and 74% of survey respondents have encouraged their parents to increase coverage during this annual Open Enrollment period.
It looks like parents are heeding their children’s advice. Plenty of seniors -- more than 40 percent of survey respondents-- already have or are planning to change their current Medicare coverage. While almost a quarter are consulting with family and friends, another 61% are surfing the internet to get information about Medicare plans and coverage.
Most of these seniors agree on a few basic things.
For one, more than 80 percent believe drug prices are too high. More than half are also worried about contracting COVID-19 because of the cost of care. But they’re not shying away from technology, especially when it comes to doctor visits.
In fact, we found there was a 716% spike in telemedicine usage among seniors on Medicare during the pandemic. 49% reported using telemedicine during the past seven months, with 1 in 4 used it more than once. 36% preferred to use their smartphones for these appointments. Just under half reported they would continue to use telemedicine on a regular basis, even when the pandemic is over.
This trend makes sense, considering more seniors are embracing the same tech that their children and grandchildren use in their everyday lives. 39% of seniors are binge-watching a streaming service, 76% text, and 35% have video chatted with family within the past month.
Another 71% said they use Facebook at least once a week. Fortunately for these tech savvy seniors, telehealth services under Medicare have been expanded in response to coronavirus. That means they can continue accessing care from the safety of their homes, a necessity as coronavirus cases rise across the country.
For non-Medicare recipients who are participating in Open Enrollment from now until December 15, a recent survey found 83% are happy with their current health insurance coverage, but half still say they’re still exploring their options. It seems the virus has even those who like their health coverage considering switching plans.
More than a quarter of those surveyed said they are likely to change their coverage this Open Enrollment period, though 22% admitting they are still undecided.
Of the 17% that aren’t happy with their current coverage, 55% say it’s because not enough benefits are covered. When asked if there were one thing respondents would change about their current health insurance, 63% cited cost issues. 30% said lower premiums, and 26% want more coverage and benefits.
While forgoing family celebrations isn’t on anyone’s Christmas list, encouraging Americans to rethink their healthcare might be a small silver lining to the pandemic.
In any case, it’s clear the virus has plenty of us second guessing our plans for the next few months. Hopefully, a vaccine will bring some stability back sooner rather than later.
Jan Dubauskas is a healthcare expert, enthusiastic insurance pro, attorney and mom serving as Vice President of healthinsurance.com.
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