The good news is that more seniors have heard about the new Medicare drug program, but the bad news may be that the seniors who are buying coverage are poorer and sicker.

Researchers at DSS Research Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, have published those conclusions in a report on results of a survey of U.S. seniors conducted in mid-December. The firm conducted a similar survey in September.

Awareness of the new Medicare Part D drug program increased dramatically between September and December, and 97% of the participants in the second survey could remember seeing Part D advertising, compared with 80% in September.

Perhaps more important, at least 68% of participants answered at least 5 of 6 Part D literacy questions accurately in December, up from 23% in September.

But the firm found that only 24% of December survey participants said they had chosen a Part D plan, 23% hope to buy Part D coverage later, and 53% said they had no plans to participate in the program.

“Disinterested non-buyers” are more affluent than Part D buyers, make few visits to the doctor and spend less on prescriptions, DSS researchers say.

About 65% of the participants who plan to buy Part D coverage later agreed that “redeeming coupons makes me feel good,” and they were likely than than other survey participants to agree that, “in general, companies are honest in their dealings with the consumer.”

The future buyers were also more likely than other participants to admit that they prefer not to pay attention to information involving numbers.”

In other words, the DSS researchers write, the prospect Part D buyers “are most approachable with messages that do not show the numbers.”