Oct 15, 2019

Medicare Open Enrollment: More Choices, More Benefits, Easier to Shop

Seema Verma
Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Medicare Open Enrollment Starts Oct. 15

I am excited to share the steps we have taken to make this Medicare Open Enrollment season a great one.  The Trump Administration believes people with Medicare should have more choices whether they are interested in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), Medicare Advantage (Part C), prescription drug coverage (Part D), or Medicare Supplemental Insurance (Medigap).  Under the leadership of President Trump – who has worked tirelessly to protect the Medicare program – we’ve increased plan choices, improved benefits, and lowered costs.  As part of the Administration’s eMedicare initiative, we’ve also made it easier to shop and compare Medicare plans by introducing the new and improved Medicare Plan Finder.  And, we launched our annual Guard Your Card campaign to inform consumers about ways to keep their personal information safe. Read on for more specifics on these improvements.

Medicare Coverage Choices

There are two main ways to get Medicare coverage—Original Medicare (Part A or B) or a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C).  Part A covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care.  Part B covers certain doctors' services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services.  Medicare Advantage is a bundled alternative to Original Medicare offered by private plans.  Some people choose to get additional coverage, like Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D), or Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) for people participating in Original Medicare.  Read on for more specifics on the improved tool to enroll in Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, and compare the supplemental benefits offered in Medigap plans.

Medicare Open Enrollment

During Open Enrollment, people with Medicare have until December 7 to review their health and drug plan options, and make the best decision based on financial and medical needs.  Re-enrollment and plan changes will take effect on January 1, 2020.  Medicare health and drug plan costs and covered benefits can change from year to year.  That’s why it’s important for people with Medicare to review their health care plan during Open Enrollment to ensure they have the right coverage for their financial and medical needs.  I encourage people with Medicare to review and update their coverage choices before the closing date.  Otherwise, they may have to wait another year to make changes. 

Medicare Advantage and Part D Premiums

The Trump Administration believes people with Medicare should have more plan choices, and benefits tailored to consumer needs when comparing between various Medicare plans.  We recently announced that 2020 Medicare Advantage premiums are expected to decline an average of 23 percent from 2018, while plan choices, benefits, and enrollment continue to increase.  The continued premium decreases bring us to the lowest level in the last thirteen years.

The decline in prices has also extended to Part D.  The projected average monthly basic Part D premium has declined 13.5 percent since 2017 to a total of $30 in 2020 – the lowest it’s been since 2013.  Part D and Medicare Advantage price decreases have saved Medicare enrollees about $2.65 billion in costs since 2017.

Medicare Plan Finder

We’ve also made it easier to compare pricing between Original Medicare, Medicare prescription drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medigap policies by implementing the first update in a decade to the Medicare Plan Finder.  The new and improved Plan Finder makes it easier for consumers to compare plans and find one that’s the best choice to meet their needs.  Here are the most important ways we’ve modernized and improved it:

Easier to View Popular Supplemental Benefits

In April, we announced that Medicare Advantage plans would be able to offer a broad range of supplemental benefits that are not necessarily strictly health-related but are likely to help our enrollees stay healthy.  Examples include tailored benefits for those that are chronically ill, pest control for those who have asthma, and healthy foods for those with heart disease.  Plan Finder makes it easy to view popular supplemental benefits.

Easier to Shop for Drug Plans with Personalized History

Medicare Open Enrollment Begins Oct. 15

We’ve personalized the Plan Finder to generate someone’s individual drug history.  Prescription information is now auto-populated from personal claims history with accurate brand, dosage, and frequency information.  There is a feature to edit, add, and remove drugs.  We’ve also built in pop-ups to notify users when there might be lower cost generics available.  It’s never been easier for someone with Medicare to build an accurate personal drug list and find Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage that best meets their needs. 

Easier to Use on Mobile Devices

Last year, the number of users accessing Medicare Plan Finder on a mobile device increased by 40 percent.  As more people prefer to shop by smartphones or tablets, we’ve made the mobile experience even better.  We’ve redesigned it to include simple prompts, clean design, and user-friendly fonts and colors.

Medicare Advantage and Part D Star Ratings

As part of our efforts to increase transparency, we recently released the 2020 Star Ratings for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans.  Star Ratings will help seniors with Medicare, their families and caregivers compare the quality of health and drug plans being offered.  This information is essential to make informed healthcare decisions. Most people with Medicare will have access to Medicare Advantage and Part D plans with four or more stars in 2020, with approximately 81 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees with prescription drug coverage will be in plans with four and five stars in 2020, an increase from 69 percent in 2017.

Medicare Guard Your Card

Finally, after shopping for health and drug plans, I urge everyone to take proper safety measures to guard against identity theft and fraud.

Medicare Card and Number

We don’t contact people with Medicare unless we’ve been given permission. Consumers should be diligent and never share their Medicare number with anyone who contacts them by telephone, email or in person, unless they’ve provided an assister or caregiver permission in advance.

Medicare Summary Notice

The Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) contains important medical history information.  People with Medicare should review their MSN to make sure charges reflect items and services that they have received.  

Empowering Patients  

The Trump Administration is working to put patients at the center of our health care system.  We want to make sure consumers have the resources they need to make the best decisions.  Our efforts during the 2020 Open Enrollment season empower people with Medicare – not the government – with choice and control, price and quality transparency, and secure access to their health information.  

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