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Medicare Web Site Confounds Many Seniors
Date:8/19/2008

ecific information about the criteria for home health care services, and 80.4 percent could not choose the correct home health agency.

In addition, 83.9 percent weren't able to do the computation necessary for making a decision about which home health care plan to enroll in. In fact, only 57.1 percent were able to make a decision about which plan to enroll in.

When it came to enrolling in the Medicare part D prescription drug program, 72.3 percent had problems navigating the necessary Web pages, locating information, and following the steps necessary for selecting a plan, the researchers found.

"We really have to think who we are designing these Web sites for, what their needs are, and what their capabilities are," Czaja said. "We can't assume that everyone has a sophisticated level of computer skills."

Allison Henry, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, doesn't think the site has the problems suggested by the study. Henry is not sure what the participants in the study were asked to do. "Without that information, we question the usefulness of the study," she said.

Henry noted that a number of tools have been added to the site to help Medicare beneficiaries make their health-care decisions. "CMS has worked to organize and format these tools in a consumer-friendly manner by conducting both qualitative and quantitative research of the Web site tools with multiple audiences."

All these online tools are tested by people likely to use the site, Henry said. "The information gathered from testing is used to make improvements to the Web site. Our research is ongoing, and the Web site continues to make enhancements on an incremental basis."

Robert Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, thinks the Web site's complexity is a reflection of the complexity of Medicare itself.

"It would be nice to have an administration more committed to people understanding wh
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