It’s Now Easier to Compare Coverage Options and Shop for Medicare Health and Drug Plans
For the first time in a decade, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a modernized and redesigned Medicare Plan Finder. The Medicare Plan Finder, the most used tool on Medicare.gov, allows users to shop and compare Medicare Advantage and Part D plans. There are more than 60 million people with Medicare coverage. The updated Medicare Plan Finder also provides them and their caregivers with a personalized experience through a mobile friendly and easy-to-read design that will help them learn about different options and select coverage that best meets their health needs. The new Plan Finder walks users through the Medicare Advantage and Part D enrollment process from start to finish and allows people to view and compare many of the supplemental benefits that Medicare Advantage plans offer.
These changes are part of the Trump Administration’s eMedicare initiative—which expands and improves on current Medicare consumer service options. CMS is improving our online Medicare tools to meet the needs of a growing number of tech savvy beneficiaries. The online tools do not replace Medicare’s traditional customer service options. People with Medicare will continue to have access to paper copies of the Medicare & You handbook and be able get help over the phone using 1-800-MEDICARE.
“President Trump has made it clear that he wants to protect and strengthen Medicare.” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “The redesigned Medicare Plan Finder is another example of how CMS is empowering beneficiaries with price and quality information to take advantage of lower rates and new benefits in Medicare Advantage and Part D.”
In 2019, CMS added nearly 600 Medicare Advantage plans with average premiums declining to their lowest levels in 6 years. Over the past three years, average Part D basic premiums have decreased by 13.5 percent, from $34.70 in 2017 to a projected $30 in 2020, saving beneficiaries about $1.9 billion in premium costs over that time.
The redesigned Medicare Plan Finder will make it easier for beneficiaries to see these changes and to:
- Compare pricing between Original Medicare, Medicare prescription drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policies;
- Compare coverage options on their smartphones and tablets;
- Compare up to three drug plans or three Medicare Advantage plans side-by-side;
- Get plan costs and benefits, including which Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits;
- Build a personal drug list and find Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage that best meets their needs.
As part of a phased rollout, both the old and new Plan Finder will be available and run in parallel through the end of September 2019, to allow time for users to try out and become familiar with the new version. The new Plan Finder has been in use at the 1-800-MEDICARE call centers for over a month already. CMS has streamlined the information on the new Plan Finder and has conducted consumer testing throughout the development of the new Medicare Plan Finder to ensure that the information that is displayed is complete, understandable and is in plain language. In addition, CMS collaborated with stakeholders to include improvements in the new Plan Finder that directly addresses a number of issues with the old Plan Finder. For example, CMS has integrated information about Medicare coverage options, clarified the cost-savings benefits of low income subsidy programs, added functionality to use actual claims data to help build more accurate drug lists, streamlined the end-to-end flow for users, and ensured that mobile optimization allows for easy use on the device the user prefers—desktop, tablet, or smartphone. In 2018, approximately 25 percent of Medicare beneficiaries accessed Medicare Plan Finder on mobile devices, an increase of 40 percent from 2017.
CMS has been offering in-person and online training on the new Plan Finder throughout the summer and we plan to offer an additional webinar session in September. They are also producing several other tools to aid with learning the new Plan Finder, including videos and tip sheets.
“We want consumers to have the best tool possible when open enrollment begins on October 15. Try it out and let us know what you think,” said Administrator Verma.
CMS annually provides Medicare health and drug plan data for private sector developers and researchers to use to create innovative new products. CMS intends to release the real-time Medicare plan data in an API format by the end of this year to make it easier for the private sector to create additional tools to help beneficiaries make informed health coverage decisions.
In addition to upgrading Medicare Plan Finder, CMS has redesigned the Medicare.gov homepage and refreshed the personalized MyMedicare.gov portal to create a more seamless, easy to navigate, personalized online experience for people with Medicare.
Approximately 10,000 people join Medicare each day. Today’s announcement builds on the eMedicare initiative that first launched in 2018 to deliver simple tools and information to current and future Medicare beneficiaries. Other new tools launched under the initiative that seeks to deliver personalized and customized information that Medicare beneficiaries prefer include:
- The “What’s Covered” app that tells people what’s covered and what’s not in Original Medicare.
- A price transparency tool that lets consumers compare Medicare payments and copayments of certain procedures performed in both hospital outpatient departments and ambulatory surgical centers.
- Interactive online decision support to help people better understand and evaluate their Medicare coverage options and costs between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage;
- An online service that lets people quickly see how different coverage choices will affect their estimated out-of-pocket costs;
- Webchat option in Medicare Plan Finder helps people get on-the-spot support; and
- Easy-to-use surveys across Medicare.gov so consumers can continue to offer feedback about their online experiences.
Medicare Open Enrollment is the time for people with Medicare to review their health coverage. It begins on October 15, 2019, and ends December 7, 2019. Medicare health and drug plan costs and covered benefits can change from year to year, so people with Medicare should look at their coverage choices and decide on the options that best fit their health needs. They can visit Medicare.gov (https://www.medicare.gov), call 1-800-MEDICARE, or contact their State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Those people with Medicare who do not wish to change their current coverage do not need to re-enroll in order to keep their current coverage.