Survey: Seniors confused by Medicare, federal health law

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In particular, the survey found, nearly half of respondents reported that they have never shopped around to find the best coverage.

Also, more than two-thirds of eligible low-income seniors had never heard of the Medicare Savings Programs, which help people with limited income pay some or all of their premiums, deductibles and coinsurance. And more than half had never heard of the Extra Help program for prescription drug costs.

Even fewer — only 13 percent — had ever applied for either program, despite their eligibility, the survey says.

Seniors' uncertainty is compounded this year by changes to the enrollment dates when beneficiaries can make changes to their coverage. The enrollment period starts earlier — Oct. 15 — and lasts longer — seven weeks — than in the past, but it also ends on Dec. 7, 24 days earlier than in the past, so that the changes can be processed by the beginning of the new year.