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Beyond Doctors & Drugs: New Virgin Pulse Survey Reveals Seniors Want Health Plans to Support More Than Medical Care

Supplemental Benefits, Whole-Person Support, and Mental Health Programs Top Desired Benefits among Older Americans

Providence, R.I., May 25, 2022 – Seniors have spoken: Health plans need to support more than medical care, according to a new national survey fromVirgin Pulse, the leading global digital-first health and wellbeing company.The survey of Americans ages 65+ provides insights about how their perceptions of health have changed since the start of COVID-19, what types of benefits they desire, and what type of member experience they want from their health plan in the future.

The Medicare market is growing, with adults ages 65 and older expected to account for approximately 20% of the U.S. population by 2050.* Health plans are paying attention, with more than double the number of Medicare Advantage plan options now available per person compared to 2017.** Understanding the needs and preferences of this population is critical to attract, satisfy, and retain members. Findings showed that seniors are eager for personalized, whole-person support and offerings that align with their health priorities like mental health resources, support for human connection, and more supplemental benefits.

To better understand what plan designs and benefit offerings will meet the evolving needs of older Americans, Virgin Pulse partnered with Ipsos to conduct a nationwide survey of over 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries ages 65+. Key findings from the new The Health Plan of the Future: What Older Americans Want report include: 

  • Help reverse seniors’ negative health perceptions: Older Americans are not as optimistic about the future as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half (58%) believe they are viewed as medical burdens by the healthcare system. And, only 54% said they felt healthier than their parents’ generation, compared to 88% when asked the same question in late 2018. Helping facilitate more one-on-one personal connections with on-demand coaches or guides will drive much-needed behavior change and a stronger sense of self.
  • Provide more whole-person support: 91% of Medicare Advantage members said supplemental benefits like hearing aids and gym memberships are important to them. More than 80% said they want support staying connected to friends, family, and community. Nearly 40% said they value mental health programs and resources. Health plans that not only offer these types of supplemental benefits, but also invest in making sure members are aware of them with proactive outreach, will be viewed as more differentiated in the market.
  • Increase personalization across populations: Seniors want the opportunity to live long healthy lives, but their priorities vary greatly across populations. For example, the ability to obtain healthy food was a top benefit desired by more than 79% of Black members and almost 68% of Hispanic members, while transportation assistance to medical appointments was a benefit valued by over 53% of Black members and 43% of Hispanic members. To succeed in supporting all members, plans must deliver a personalized and inclusive experience that’s accessible for all populations served.
  • Meet members where they are digitally: The pandemic accelerated technology use among older Americans. Nearly three quarters (73%) said that technology is part of their daily lives and 40% said they use smartphones for health activities like telehealth visits, ordering prescriptions, or making appointments. Plans can capitalize on this trend with a high-tech, high-touch approach that makes it easy for members to engage with their providers and benefits.
  • Be transparent about member responsibility: The survey found that 1 in 3 seniors worry about being able to afford recommended care, like prescriptions and medical procedures. Despite these cost concerns, 20% said they were surprised by a bill or by how much care cost, and 1 in 6 (16.5%) said they cannot always afford their prescriptions. While this is largely positive, it also presents an opportunity for health plans. The more a plan does to help members understand costs and what is covered by their benefits, the less worried and more satisfied members will be.

“The health and wellbeing priorities of all Americans – including older adults – are continuously evolving, and they expect customized benefits that address the whole person,” said April Gill, executive vice president and general manager of health plans and health systems for Virgin Pulse. “With member experience more important than ever, plans that embrace these desires will reap the rewards and stay competitive in a crowded market. By leveraging new ways to engage members that combine both high-tech and human touch experiences, plans will stand out and successfully attract and retain members.”

Review the survey findings and learn more by downloading The Health Plan of the Future: What Older Americans Want.