Theoretical Background and research questions/hypothesis: Health literacy is a major problem for the aging population and poor minorities (Parker et al., 2003). Senior citizens and minorities are less likely to understand written and verbal information, to follow directions, or navigate the health care system. Adult learning theory serves to direct the research study. Is there a relationship between education and knowledge of original Medicare and Medicare Advantage (health literacy) among Medicare recipients in a southwest Georgia community?
- Null Hypothesis: There is no significant relationship between education and knowledge of original Medicare and Medicare Advantage (health literacy) among Medicare recipients in Southwest Georgia community.
- Alternative Hypothesis: There is a significant relationship between education and knowledge of original Medicare and Medicare Advantage (health literacy) among Medicare recipients in a Southwest Georgia community.
Methods: The cross sectional quantitative survey investigated the relationship between the independent variable of education and the dependent variable knowledge of original Medicare and Medicare Advantage. The study assessed the ability of the independent variable education to predict the dependent variable (knowledge of original Medicare and Medicare Advantage). Health literacy and knowledge of Medicare were measured with surveys developed by Bann and McCormack of the Research Triangle Institute (2005). The Health Literacy and Medicare knowledge surveys were administered to senior citizens in the buildings where they live. Each survey had 11 questions. These questions were either true/false, yes/no, or multiple-choice. According to McCormack et al., (2009), the alpha values for this section was .85. Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) software was used to analyze the data collected from surveys.
Results: Sixty-six residents volunteered to take the Medicare Knowledge and Health Literacy Surveys. The typical respondent was African American, between the ages of 66-70, and had a high school diploma. High school graduates and technical/2-year graduates differed significantly in terms of their knowledge of Medicare Advantage scores. The technical/2-year graduates scored higher than the high school graduates on the knowledge of Medicare Advantage scores. In summary, education was not significant for knowledge of Original Medicare, but education was significant for knowledge of Medicare Advantage.
Conclusions: The study results showed that Medicare beneficiaries that have a higher education level will have more knowledge/health literacy regarding Medicare Advantage. The myriad of choices Medicare Advantage provides demand that the Medicare beneficiary’s educational/literacy levels are high enough to choose the right plan or make the right decisions.
Implications for research and/or practice: The significant role of education provides a platform on which to build frameworks for increased health literacy related to Medicare. The Adult learning theory could be a major link in closing the gap on traditional and lifelong education of Medicare beneficiaries. Ongoing educational experiences will promote and maintain health care literacy essential to navigate policies such as Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Small businesses, like Polyglot, are filling a gap using health technology to provide health instructions on a fifth grade level. This concept may be utilized for health insurance.