2021 Medicare Beneficiary Shopper Survey

In this Guide...

Roughly 40 million Medicare beneficiaries will shop for a new Medicare plan online this year during Medicare Open Enrollment. Learn how COVID-19, health care costs and other factors are shaping the shopping decisions for Medicare beneficiaries across the country.

Happy woman smiles while using tablet at home

Online shopping has surged in popularity as consumers have increasingly embraced the ease and convenience of buying food, clothing, household items and seemingly everything else from the comfort of their own home.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that trend, as e-commerce grew 32% in the U.S. in 2020.1 And according to our recent Medicare shopper survey, purchasing health insurance is no exception to the trend of online shopping.

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP, also called the fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period) begins October 15 and continues until December 7. This is the time of year when millions of Medicare beneficiaries all over the country may shop, drop or swap private Medicare plans. According to our 2021 Medicare Beneficiary Shopper Survey, 2 out of every 3 beneficiaries who plan to make changes to their coverage this fall will do so online.

Graphic showing how many beneficiaries will review and change their Medicare plan this year

COVID-19 and Online Medicare Shopping

More than 63% of Medicare beneficiaries, or roughly 40 million Americans, plan to review or make changes to their Medicare coverage during Medicare open enrollment. And nearly seven out of 10 of those beneficiaries cite COVID-19 as a reason why they’re shopping online.

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Graphic showing the COVID-19 pandemic on Medicare shoppers

The global pandemic forced many people to reexamine their health insurance coverage, particularly older adults who were more severely affected by the virus. But COVID-19 has served not only as grounds to re-evaluate one’s benefits, but a reason to do so online and away from the risks of an insurance agent’s office, senior center or other in-person location.

Almost 66% of those planning to shop for a new plan this fall will be doing it digitally. Only 16% plan to meet with an in-person advisor or agent. As a means of comparison, just 47% of beneficiaries currently enrolled in a private Medicare plan first learned about their plan online.

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Graphic chart showing how most Medicare beneficiaries first learned about their current plan

COVID-19 isn’t the only reason for the popularity in online Medicare shopping. The online consumer experience continues to improve for Medicare shoppers as nearly all insurance carriers allow for online shopping, quote comparisons and enrollment.

Nearly half the beneficiaries surveyed described shopping for Medicare online as “easy,” while less than a third found it “difficult.”

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Graphic chart showing how Medicare beneficiaries rate the difficulty of shopping for a new plan

Plan Satisfaction and Reasons for Enrolling

Despite two-thirds of all beneficiaries planning to review their coverage options this fall, 97% of Medicare enrollees remain either very (52%) or somewhat (45%) satisfied with their current plan.

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Graphic showing beneficiaries level of satisfaction with different types of Medicare plans

The reasons why beneficiaries enroll in a private Medicare plan are varied and can include advantages such as dental, vision and prescription drug coverage (21%), gaining access to managed care (18%) and reducing out-of-pocket costs (17%).

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Graphic showing the main reasons beneficiaries chose their private Medicare plan

The features that shoppers consider the most when plan shopping and comparing are just as varied. Benefits (68%), deductible amounts (66%) and copayment amounts (62%) were all cited as “very important” things to consider about a plan.

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Graphic showing the ranking of importance of Medicare plan factors for beneficiaries


Around 40 million Medicare beneficiaries plan to review their current coverage and compare other options during the Annual Enrollment Period (also called the fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period). And 2 out of every 3 of these beneficiaries will be conducting their plan comparison shopping online.

COVID-19 is one reason for online plan shopping, along with the general ease of the online Medicare experience and widespread trust in non-government Medicare websites.

Most beneficiaries are satisfied with their current plan, and the features of a plan that are important to consumers vary.

Methodology and Data Notes

This survey was conducted September 16-24, 2021, using an audience pool of 1,007 respondents. To qualify, respondents needed to be aged 65 and older and currently enrolled in Medicare.

Participants were filtered based on completion time and failure to follow written instructions within the survey.

Margin of error: +/- 4% (95% confidence interval)

This survey relies on self-reported data.

1 Fareeha Ali, Jessica Young. (Jan. 29, 2021). US ecommerce grows 32.4% in 2020. Digital Commerce 360. https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/article/us-ecommerce-sales.

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