Internet-Savvy Elderly Stymied By Medicare's Drug Plan Web Site

Nearly two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries who use the Internet report that Medicare's Web site is difficult or impossible to use in choosing a drug plan under the new Medicare drug benefit, according to a recent survey conducted by ElderLawAnswers. Meanwhile, nearly half of survey respondents say they are baffled by the new Medicare drug benefit itself.

The Web-based survey found that 63 percent of respondents had used Medicare's Web site ( to compare prescription drug plans offered in their area, but most did not find the site easy to navigate. More than half (54 percent) found it "difficult" to compare plans and 12 percent said that doing so was "impossible." Only 5 percent reported that plan comparisons were "easy."

"These findings are significant because survey respondents are already Internet users and presumably have some proficiency in using computers and navigating Web sites," said ElderLawAnswers president Harry S. Margolis, Esq. "The fact that so large a share of this group is having difficulty suggests a more widespread problem."

The Medicare site has been touted as the best way to compare prescription drug plans, but concerns have been raised about the ability of elderly beneficiaries to use it, and the site has had technical problems as well.

While 42 percent of respondents say they intend to sign up for the new Medicare benefit, nearly half (48 percent) of beneficiaries say they understand the drug benefit either "not very well" or "not at all." Only 14 percent report that they understand it "very well."

The survey also probed the reasons why beneficiaries are choosing not to sign up for the drug benefit. The leading reasons were "I already have drug coverage" (42 percent), "I don't think it will save me money" (42 percent), "It's too complicated" (32 percent) and "I don't take enough drugs to make it worthwhile" (30 percent). (Respondents were asked to check all options that applied.)

The survey found that nearly one in five respondents (18 percent) report having been pressured by a private drug firm to sign up with its plan.

The survey was conducted from late November 2005 through early January 2006, Respondents were recipients of ElderLawAnswers' free monthly e-newsletter, ElderLaw News, and visitors to the ElderLawAnswers site.

For more on the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, click here.