An overview and study of beneficiaries’ knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of the Medicare Part D benefit

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Consultant Pharmacist









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PURPOSE: Medicare beneficiaries' knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions (KAP) of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit have been under evaluation since the 2006 inception of the Part D benefit.

OBJECTIVE: This study sought to examine beneficiaries' satisfaction with their Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, knowledge of the coverage gap, attitudes about the relative importance of certain insurance parameters, and overall perceptions of the Part D benefit.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional, descriptive study design.

SETTING: Thirteen outreach events targeting Medicare beneficiaries in northern California during the 2012 open-enrollment period.

PARTICIPANTS: A total of 576 Medicare beneficiaries.

INTERVENTIONS: Beneficiaries were asked questions related to their KAP of the Part D benefit as part of a plan to evaluate their need for assistance. Sociodemographic data were collected via a standardized survey.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Identify variances in KAP related to beneficiary sociodemographic and clinical characteristics.

RESULTS: Forty-seven percent of beneficiaries claimed to be “very” or “extremely” satisfied with Part D, yet only 40.3% of those with a prescription drug plan (PDP) rated their plan as “very good” or “excellent.” Those automatically enrolled into their plan by Medicare were significantly less satisfied with their plan (P = 0.048). Almost three in four recipients not receiving Medicare subsidies have heard of the gap in prescription drug coverage, i.e., the “donut hole.” Additionally, there were significant racial disparities in knowledge of the gap. Only 62.7% of beneficiaries indicated that “total out-of-pocket cost during the year” was the most important plan characteristic for them.

CONCLUSIONS: An understanding of beneficiaries' attitudes may help explain suboptimal Part D plan selection. Moreover, evaluating beneficiaries' knowledge of the Part D benefit can assist advocacy groups in creating educational materials to better assist this vulnerable population in choosing an appropriate plan.