Empowering older adults to choose the right Medicare plan

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • Audience research
  • Plain language writing
  • Visual and UX design

As Americans approach age 65, they face big questions about health insurance. When should I enroll in Medicare? What “parts” do I need? What about supplemental coverage? Many people struggle with the incredibly complex process of enrolling in Medicare. And people with low health literacy skills or limited experience with health insurance face even greater challenges.

There are more than 40 million people over age 65 in the United States today — and as that number continues to grow, so will the need for clear communication about Medicare. The stakes are high — and CommunicateHealth is proud to partner with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to help meet this need.

Our approach

We use a variety of research methods — like in-depth interviews, surveys, and journey mapping — to tease out what older adults know about health insurance and what they need to learn. We use these insights to help CMS develop new tools and communications — and evaluate the effectiveness of existing resources.

We provide strategic guidance grounded in behavior change, communication theory, user experience, and health literacy best practices. Our recommendations help CMS create products that meet users where they are and guide them through the process of choosing and using Medicare plans.


Our research helps CMS improve Medicare communication campaigns, tools, and resources.

Used journey mapping to understand how adults aging into Medicare understand and choose health plans

To learn how older adults research, evaluate, and choose Medicare plans, we followed a group of 21 coming-of-agers (Americans approaching Medicare eligibility) over 4 months as they prepared for enrollment. We also interviewed stakeholders like CMS customer service representatives and State Health Insurance Program counselors about their work with coming-of-agers. Based on these insights, we created journey maps to illustrate how users navigate the Medicare enrollment process and offered targeted recommendations to improve communication with coming-of-agers.

Doing in-home, ethnographic research with people aging into Medicare allowed us to have face-to-face interviews with people in their natural setting and observe how they search for information about Medicare.”

— Kerrie Kauer, Senior Research Scientist

Facilitated in-home interviews to evaluate MyMedicare.gov

We conducted ethnographic interviews to understand the challenges users face when navigating MyMedicare.gov — the online portal where users can pay bills, review plan options, and more. To collect the most authentic data possible, we traveled across the country to interview participants in their homes. Our research team observed how participants interacted with the portal and other sources of Medicare information, like postcards and flyers they received in the mail.

In 2019, we gathered feedback on Medicare’s Open Enrollment Survey from 3,320 participants.

Provided strategic insight to help CMS refine enrollment communication materials

Enrollment communication materials present a huge opportunity to help older adults understand their Medicare plan options. We conducted surveys and user testing to gather feedback on these materials. Based on our findings, we provided best practice recommendations to shape communications like the Medicare & You handbook and Medicare’s annual enrollment communication campaign.