Medicare communications: it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile

senior woman smiling with a surfboard

Ask a focus group for the first words that come to mind when they hear the term ‘Medicare’. You might hear:

“senior citizen”



Those few words might be top of mind. If I asked the same focus group what Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Bacon, Madonna, and Ellen DeGeneres all had in common I might hear “celebrities”, “movies”, or other entertainment-related terms. But their greatest commonality is that they all turned 65 years-old in 2023—aging into Medicare just like your “retired grandparents”.

In 1945, President Truman called for Congress to create a national health insurance fund, open to all Americans. His universal coverage proposal didn’t fly, and it would be 20 more years before President Johnson signed Medicare coverage for Americans aged 65+ into law. Fittingly, in 1966, Harry Truman and his wife, Bess, were the first two Medicare beneficiaries, and the total US Medicare budget was $10B. Today, roughly 65M Americans have coverage through Medicare, and spending has topped $830B.

Sure, times have changed, and it’s not only the Medicare price tag that has gone up—so has the population of those aged 65+ (less than 20M in 1965) as well as overall life expectancy (up 13% for men and 9% for women).

With more of the population living longer (and pickle ball courts everywhere booked), health plan payers need to rethink how best to engage today’s Boomers. Aged 58-77, roughly a quarter of these beneficiaries are still working. New Medicare beneficiaries aging in are tech savvy and independent. Celebs like Madonna may seem like they’re in a league of their own, but the truth is health plans need to consider the variances across the Medicare population and communicate effectively for each segment of this group. Communications in general should reflect:

  • Different education levels within the population – keeping the message simple and concise will reach the majority of the audience.
  • That some seniors need help connecting to resources and organizations that can help with social determinant of health (SDoH) issues.
  • That many seniors are still working – don’t make assumptions about “free time”.
  • Younger seniors' use of technology and social media make those channels an effective way to communicate – older seniors may still prefer phone, in-person, and regular mail communications.
  • That some older seniors – particularly women – may be living alone or have caregivers, and may need messaging oriented to their situations.

Today’s Medicare members vary widely and considering the differences between those in the Greatest Generation (Dick Van Dyke), the Silent Generation (Robert De Niro), and Boomers (Bill Gates) is important.

Today’s health plans should pull a page from the Material Girl’s playbook and get into the groove to effectively target each segment of today’s Medicare population.

Melissa Meyerowitz

Melissa’s dynamic career has been spent spearheading successful marketing and business development programs nationally across various healthcare entities. She has expertise in analyzing business opportunities based on market needs and short and long-range organizational priorities. In addition to developing appropriate solutions and go-to-market initiatives based upon analysis of business needs and positioning, she combines expertise in strategic market planning, organizational leadership, and project management with strong qualifications in new product/service development, and market launch.

Melissa spent 12 years working at Welltok (formerly Silverlink). Prior to Welltok, she worked at both HighRoads and AonHewitt. Melissa has both a BA and an MBA from Boston University.