Published Online: Thursday, June 1, 2006

Seniors confused about their options under the new Medicare Part D drug benefit may not be getting much help from the explanations put out by the government's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), investigators with the congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) charged.

In a new report on the quality of information put out by CMS to explain Part D, GAO researchers concluded that the agency may be leaving many Medicare recipients confused about the program. The CMS documents prepared to explain the program to seniors "used too much technical jargon and often did not define difficult terms, such as formulary," said the GAO officials.

Moreover, whereas 40% of the nation's seniors read at or below the 5th-grade level, "the reading levels of these [Part D] documents ranged from 7th grade to postcollege," the report said. Although the literature produced by CMS to explain the Part D benefit was "largely complete and accurate," the information "lacked clarity," the GAO investigators said.

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