Medicare Part D beneficiaries tend not to switch plans despite the government's efforts to engage beneficiaries in the plan switching process. Understanding current and alternative plan features is a necessary step to make informed plan switching decisions. This study explored beneficiaries' plan switching using a mixed-methods approach, with a focus on the concept of information processing. We found large variation in beneficiary comprehension of plan information among both switchers and nonswitchers. Knowledge about alternative plans was especially poor, with only about half of switchers and 2 in 10 nonswitchers being well informed about plans other than their current plan. We also found that helpers had a prominent role in plan decision making-nearly twice as many switchers as nonswitchers worked with helpers for their plan selection. Our study suggests that easier access to helpers as well as helpers' extensive involvement in the decision-making process promote informed plan switching decisions.
Keywords: Medicare; Part D; decision making; information processing.