Choice, numeracy, and physicians-in-training performance: The case of medicare part D

Y. Hanoch, T. Miron-Shatz, H. Cole, M. Himmelstein, A.D. Federman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: In this study, we examined the effect of choice-set size and numeracy levels on a physicianin-training’s ability to choose appropriate Medicare drug plans. Design: Medical students and internalmedicine residents (N 100) were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 surveys, differing only in the numberof plans to be evaluated (3, 10, and 20). After reviewing information about stand-alone Medicareprescription drug plans, participants answered questions about what plan they would advise 2 hypothetical patients to choose on the basis of a brief summary of the relevant concerns of each patient.Participants also completed an 11-item numeracy scale. Main outcome measure: Ability to answercorrectly questions about hypothetical Medicare Part D insurance plans and numeracy levels. Results:Consistent with our hypotheses, increases in choice sets correlated significantly with fewer correctanswers, and higher numeracy levels were associated with more correct answers. Hence, our data furtherhighlight the role of numeracy in financial- and health-related decision making, and also raise concernsabout physicians’ ability to help patients choose the optimal Part D plan. Conclusion: Our data indicatethat even physicians-in-training perform more poorly when choice size is larger, thus raising concerns aboutthe capacity of physicians-in-training to successfully navigate Medicare Part D and help their patients pick thebest drug plan. Our results also illustrate the importance of numeracy in evaluating insurance-relatedinformation and the need for enhancing numeracy skills among medical students and physicians
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-259
Number of pages6
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • choice
  • decision making
  • Medicare Part D
  • numeracy


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