The Need – The Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) was in the process of redesigning Medicare.gov to make it easier to understand Medicare, compare plans and sign up. “Getting” Medicare is daunting for most Americans as they approach age 65. You need to grasp what is “Part A”, “Part B”, “Part D”, and Medicare Advantage, how they are different and how they are integrated. You need to understand subscription fees, co-pays, total out of pocket costs, and current coverage around drugs, medical conditions and providers. When the time comes to sign up for Medicare, most struggle to understand the system so they can go to the next step and pick the right plan that fits their budget, lifestyle and health needs. CMS provides excellent customer support to recipients through their call centers and SHINE, which is a national network of trained volunteers. They wanted to improve the design of Medicare.gov to make it easier so people can make choices on their own.
Our Solution – Kay moderated 50 usability studies with “Coming-of-Agers” (CMS terminology for Americans who are 64 and will be signing on to Medicare), current Medicare recipients, and CMS call center agents. The face-to-face studies took place in seven locations throughout the United States with participants from diverse backgrounds (socio-economic, ethnic, educational, familiarity with Medicare). We also facilitated a fruitful usability review workshop with CMS customer support representatives from the Richmond VA call center.
Results – From Kay’s work the CMS design team gained a clear understanding of how typical Americans come to understand Medicare, despite its complexity. Our participants provided insight into the very practical concerns of retired Americans when it comes to their insurance needs, and how this varies by the individual’s background and circumstances. We were able to test the usability and effectiveness of numerous design approaches to see which were most effective at explaining Medicare and coverage choices.