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Survey: Medicare Beneficiaries’ Trust In Health Care Providers As Sources of Covid-19 Information Increased During Pandemic

Press Release

Trust in the internet decreased among Medicare beneficiaries.

CHICAGO, August 5, 2021 – The percentage of Medicare beneficiaries who relied on health care providers as sources of information about COVID-19 jumped from 49 percent in summer (June-July) 2020 to 68 percent in winter (March-April) 2021, according to new data from the latest Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) supplement, collected by NORC at the University of Chicago for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

These same surveys found that reliance on the internet (webpages other than traditional news sources, social media, or government sites) as a source of COVID-19 information decreased over the pandemic among Medicare beneficiaries, dropping from 46 percent in summer 2020 to 37 percent in winter 2021.

“What people knew about the pandemic and public health guidance, like mask mandates and social distancing, changed rapidly throughout the course of the pandemic. Understanding who vulnerable people trust can help public health leaders equip those sources with the most up-to-date, accurate information,” said Sarah Hoyt, research scientist at NORC. “With so much misinformation online, more Medicare beneficiaries turned to their health care providers for facts about the pandemic as time passed.”

Researchers used three supplements of the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, conducted in summer (June-July) 2020, fall (October-November) 2020, and winter (March-April) 2021, to help public health officials understand how Medicare beneficiaries received information about the pandemic. Having these three supplements over a 10-month period allowed researchers to analyze trends as the pandemic evolved among United States adults age 65 and over and those under 65 with certain disabling conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults over 65 accounted for almost 80 percent of all deaths involving COVID-19 in the United States. Insights gleaned from the MCBS can provide governments and policymakers with a clearer understanding of how this vulnerable population receives and understands crucial public health information.

For instance, Medicare beneficiaries over the age of 75 and those with incomes less than $25,000 were the least likely to rely on their health care providers for COVID-19 information throughout all three survey periods. Beneficiaries under 75, those with incomes higher than $25,000, and white non-Hispanic beneficiaries were most likely to rely on the internet for COVID-19 information.

In the MCBS COVID-19 Community Supplements, respondents were asked what sources of information they relied on for information about the coronavirus. Response options included traditional news sources, social media, comments or guidance from government officials, other webpages/internet, friends or family members, and health care providers. The award-winning MCBS COVID-19 Data Tool presents findings from the MCBS COVID-19 Supplement PUFs. Estimates represent the population of beneficiaries who were continuously enrolled in Medicare from the beginning of 2020 and were alive, living in the community, and eligible and enrolled in Medicare at the time of the COVID-19 summer 2020, fall 2020, or winter 2021 supplement interviews. The tool’s about page provides a description of the COVID-19 Community Supplement Methodology and survey questions, and responses are presented in the dashboards. For this analysis, percentage estimates were calculated using the survey weights, and variance estimates were calculated using the replicate weights supplied in the MCBS COVID-19 Supplement PUFs. Findings from bivariate and repeated cross-sectional analyses were reported for differences that were statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level (p=.05).

About the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS)
The MCBS is an ongoing survey of a representative national sample of the Medicare population, including beneficiaries age 65 and over and beneficiaries age 64 and below with certain disabling conditions. The Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics (OEDA) of CMS sponsors the survey. The MCBS is designed to aid CMS in administering, monitoring, and evaluating the Medicare program. It is essential to providing vital information on beneficiaries that is not otherwise collected through operational or administrative data from the Medicare program. NORC conducts the full range of MCBS survey activities, including sampling, data collection, data processing, editing, imputation, and delivery of files to CMS for final processing and dissemination.

For more information about the MCBS, including the survey’s unique features and the types of data available, see NORC’s project page.

The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey

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About NORC at the University of Chicago

NORC at the University of Chicago conducts research and analysis that decision-makers trust. As a nonpartisan research organization and a pioneer in measuring and understanding the world, we have studied almost every aspect of the human experience and every major news event for more than eight decades. Today, we partner with government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world to provide the objectivity and expertise necessary to inform the critical decisions facing society.

Contact: For more information, please contact Eric Young at NORC at or (703) 217-6814 (cell).