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Med Care. 2006 Nov;44(11):1020-9.

Beneficiary knowledge of original Medicare and Medicare managed care.

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RTI International, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.



Previous research on beneficiary knowledge of the Medicare program has shown that the beneficiary population is not well informed about Medicare. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented the National Medicare Education Program in 1998 to educate Medicare beneficiaries about program benefits; choices, rights, responsibilities and protections, and health behaviors.


We sought to measure beneficiary knowledge of the Medicare program and to assess how knowledge varies by beneficiary subgroups and topic areas.


We conducted psychometric analyses of survey data from Round 36 of the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey to construct knowledge indices and estimated regression models with each knowledge index as the dependent variable, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, self-reported health status, and insurance.


The study sample included 2634 noninstitutionalized Medicare beneficiaries.


There were 2 separate knowledge indices representing the 2 primary avenues for receiving Medicare benefits: Original Medicare and Medicare managed care.


Beneficiaries ages 75 or older, nonwhite, with lower incomes, lower education levels, and public insurance had lower levels of knowledge on both indices. Enrollment in Medicare managed care was positively associated with knowledge about Medicare managed care but negatively associated with knowledge about Original Medicare. Areas of low program knowledge included coverage and benefits, enrollment/disenrollment, and plan choice.


Our findings suggest the need to develop educational campaigns targeting vulnerable beneficiaries who have continued to demonstrate low levels of Medicare program knowledge.

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