Medicare Education Tools Left On the Shelf

October 24, 2001( - Participants aren't taking advantage of a number of Medicare education tools, according to a report by Mathematica Policy Research Group.

However, those who have either recently enrolled in an HMO or who have recently switched from one Medicare HMO to another apparently make more use of Medicare-sponsored education tools, than do fee-for-service participants.

The report, which Mathematic prepared for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), aimed measure the usefulness of the National Medicare Education Program, and followed a two-year nationwide telephone and paper survey of HMO enrollees and fee-for-service beneficiaries.

Switchers and New Enrollees

The report found that among the new and recently switched HMO-enrollees, only 44% use the National Medicare Education Program educational tools – tools that were developed to promote the Medicare+Choice program and to inform beneficiaries about new health care options.

Among fee-for-service participants, 39% had used at least one Medicare-sponsored educational source.

Tools of the Trade

The tools include:

  • mass mailings of “Medicare & You”,
  • a toll-free telephone service
  • an Web site,
  • health fairs,
  • newspapers and public service announcements,
  • counseling through the state health insurance program, and
  • a trainer model for nonprofit agencies to educate beneficiaries

Further Findings

Findings of the study show that:

  • some 33% of the switchers and new enrollees use the handbook, compared to 30% of the reference group,
  • about 12% of the switchers and new enrollees use the toll-free number, in comparison to 11% in the fee-for-service group
  • in the HMO group, less than 4% attended a state health insurance program or counseling session, and 1% each used the Web site and attended a health fair or lecture, and
  • nearly three quarters of switchers and new enrollees used non-National Medicare Education Program sources, such as family, health care providers and former employers