Data Overload May Complicate Insurance Choices

Trouble picking plans could be most troublesome for seniors, study finds

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FRIDAY, June 5, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- The wide array of available Medicare drug-coverage plans increases the risk that senior citizens will make poor choices and needlessly spend hundreds of dollars a year, warns a new study.

A typical senior can choose from about 50 drug plans.

The study included 180 adults, half aged 65 or older, who were asked to examine hypothetical drug plans and select one that they would recommend to a friend. The participants were randomly divided into groups and given information about three, 10 or 20 plans.

The researchers found that participants aged 65 and older were 59 percent less likely than younger people to determine which plan would be the cheapest, but seniors were almost twice as likely to be confident about their choices as were younger adults.

In general, participants of all ages were more likely to make errors when faced with a larger number of plan choices.

The findings appear online in the journal Health Services Research.

"There is information overload when there are too many drug plans for seniors to choose from," study co-author Thomas Rice, vice chancellor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a journal news release. "Congress needs to take this issue very seriously."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has more about prescription drug coverage.

SOURCE: Health Services Research, news release, May 28, 2009

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