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Keywords:

  • Medicare beneficiary;
  • consumer information materials;
  • health insurance knowledge

Objective.To assess the effect of new consumer information materials about the Medicare program on beneficiary knowledge of their health care coverage under the Medicare system.

Data Source. A telephone survey of 2,107 Medicare beneficiaries in the 10-county Kansas City metropolitan statistical area.

Study Design. Beneficiaries were randomly assigned to a control group and three treatment groups each receiving a different set of Medicare informational materials. The “handbook-only” group received the Health Care Financing Administration's new Medicare & You 1999 handbook. The “bulletin” group received an abbreviated version of the handbook, and the “handbook + CAHPS” group received the Medicare & You handbook plus the Consumer Assessment of Health Plans (CAHPS)® survey report comparing the quality of health care provided by Medicare HMOs. Beneficiaries interested in receiving information were oversampled.

Data Collection Methods. Data were collected during two separate telephone surveys of Medicare beneficiaries: one survey of new beneficiaries and another survey of experienced beneficiaries. The intervention materials were mailed to sample members in advance of the interviews. Knowledge for the treatment groups was measured shortly after beneficiaries received the intervention materials.

Principal Findings. Respondents' knowledge was measured using a psychometrically valid and reliable 15-item measure. Beneficiaries who received the intervention materials answered significantly more questions correctly than control group members. The effect on beneficiary knowledge of providing the information was modest for all intervention groups but varied for experienced beneficiaries only, depending on the intervention they received.

Conclusions. The findings suggest that all of the new materials had a positive effect on beneficiary knowledge about Medicare and the Medicare + Choice program. While the absolute gain in knowledge was modest, it was greater than increases in knowledge associated with traditional Medicare information sources.