Who Thinks that Part D is Too Complicated?

The great majority of surveyed Americans believe the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit is too complicated and want it simplified. Specifically, they favor the government limiting the number of plan choices from insurers, as well as offering a plan directly through Medicare.

Since its 2006 inception, Medicare Part D has successfully attracted both insurers and plan participants, offered lower premiums than expected and largely satisfied beneficiaries. But consumers have been “sticky,” staying with the same plan year after year without reexamining whether their plan best meets their changing needs and for a favorable cost. It is hypothesized consumers don’t shift between policies because identifying the right plan out of 50 or more options is complex.

To determine who in the population would favor certain changes to Part D, data was collected in a national telephone survey of 1,876 adults, age 18 and older.

Key Findings:

  • Four of five adults sampled think Medicare Part D is too complicated.
  • Approximately two-thirds think government should limit the number of plans.
  • Eighty-four percent favor providing beneficiaries the option to buy a plan directly from Medicare.
  • Older adults were more likely to think Part D was too complicated, although older adults who did not have a Part D plan similar to younger adults, suggests experience with Part D, rather than age, may be the determining factor.
  • Americans on the right side of the political spectrum were less likely to think Part D was too complicated, and less likely to want the government to offer a plan option.
  • Education levels made no difference in how people felt about the program.

These results are consistent with decision theory that suggests people are overwhelmed by too many choices and welcome government paternalism that could expertly reduce the number of choices but not eliminate their freedom of choice. The authors believe the political and social climate is ripe for reform of this program.