To encourage retirees to surf the Internet for information that can help them pick a Medicare health plan, the government will put computers in hundreds of senior citizens centers across the country.
“Bringing seniors into cyberspace is an efficient way to keep our beneficiaries up to date about our programs so they can make informed health care decisions,” said NancyAnn Min DeParle, deputy administrator for the agency that runs Medicare.
Starting next year, Medicare will open more kinds of managed care health plans to seniors. The plans get fixed monthly fees from Medicare to provide all covered care, no matter how much patients use, but they have varying restrictions, supplemental benefits and costs.
To help seniors choose, the agency by the end of this year will post on its Internet site online charts comparing premiums, co-payments and benefits for all available plans. Quality rankings of plans and consumer satisfaction surveys will be added to the database in the future.
But since many older people don’t have their own computers at home, Medicare this summer offered about 500 government surplus computers with operating software to senior centers nationally.
The agency announced Thursday that 462 centers in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have responded. The centers will be responsible for connecting the computers to the Internet and assisting seniors.
“Providing computers to senior centers helps ensure that someone with know-how will be on hand to guide those who have never surfed the Internet before,” said DeParle.
Medicare already posts a variety of consumer information on its Internet site. The address is http//www.hcfa.gov.