A thorough review of the literature indicates that Medicare beneficiaries use all types of media and do so often. Television is the most widely used medium among adults age 55 and older. Eighty-four percent of adults over age 50 read a newspaper daily, and 70 percent are magazine readers. Perhaps one of the least-used media is radio, with just 20 to 25 percent of the adult radio-listening audience consisting of those over age 55.
The Medicare population is not homogeneous, however, and should not be stereotyped. Education, age, income, and living arrangements all affect the types of media that people use. Someone with more education is more likely to use a variety of media than someone who did not complete high school.
In marketing, focus groups have determined the value of segmenting messages according to groups of people who demonstrate consistent attitudes, values, and behaviors. Among Medicare enrollees, focus groups have identified four different groups: proactive adults who seek information, faithful patients who do what the doctor tells them, optimists who think they will never get sick, and the disillusioned who do not trust anyone.
In addition to media, there are myriad other sources of information: handbooks and guides produced by public agencies such as HCFA; libraries; information kiosks; videotapes; on-line computer services such as SeniorNet or Retirement Living Forum; community meetings; information, counseling, and assistance (ICA) programs; nonprofit organizations such as AARP; one-on-one counselors; private organizations; employers; and physicians.
It has been found that forums in which Medicare beneficiaries can have one-on-one personal contact carry the most weight and influence with this group. A series of 15 focus groups conducted in the fall of 1993 for the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the biggest problems with Medicare had to do with communication and coverage (Frederick/Schneiders, 1995). In