It's not just seniors who find choosing a Medicare Part D plan confusing – it's doctors too!

In 2006, a group of researchers studied senior citizens’ decision about Medicare Part D plans. Plenty of seniors got confused and picked suboptimal plans. It sounded like bad news, but there was a potential bright spot: If their doctors helped them out, presumably they’d make better choices.

In a new study (gated here) of medical students and residents at a leading (unnamed) hospital looking at simplified versions of 3, 10 and 20 Medicare Part D plans, the researchers found that more than two-thirds of doctors picked the right one. However, poor choices increased with the number of plans offered. Keep in mind that most states offer more than 50 plans whose descriptions are not nearly as streamlined as the ones in this study. Discouragingly, physician confidence rose as the number of mistakes increased.

But doctors with better numerical skills performed better with their choices. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to use that piece of information when making physician choices today. if you’re picking a primary care physician from a health insurance provider’s list, you are often told what medical school a doctor attended, but not what that doctor majored in back in college.

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