Nov 27, 2019

We’re Heading into the Last Week of Medicare Open Enrollment, Don’t Miss Out on Your Chance to Find Better Coverage

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

We’re Heading into the Last Week of Medicare Open Enrollment
Don’t Miss Out on Your Chance to Find Better Coverage

As we enter into the final week of Medicare Open Enrollment, CMS is pleased to report that enrollment is brisk and we’re already seeing the positive impact of the new Medicare Plan Finder. This year we overhauled the Medicare Plan Finder because it needed it. Advocates, beneficiaries and oversight agencies told us that. And they were right. Their input on what was important was invaluable and their partnership in reminding people with Medicare that Open Enrollment is happening has been a great public service.

CMS has been distressed to see media coverage talking about “glitches” or “malfunctions” in the Plan Finder. Let’s be clear: the new Plan Finder has experienced no outages since it was launched. It displays the most current and accurate information on premiums, deductibles and cost sharing that Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans provide. That information changes frequently because plans regularly update drug formularies and renegotiate drug prices. That’s good for beneficiaries and for the Medicare program.

Traffic on Plan Finder is 14% higher than last year and users are having an easier time navigating the site with 57% more people getting through to their plan results list than in previous years. People with Medicare are creating accounts, building drug lists based off their recent Medicare claims, and researching their coverage options. Already, we’re seeing high percentages of plan switching, likely because new supplemental benefits are appealing and beneficiaries are shopping to find the best coverage for their needs.

The agency is not done improving the Plan Finder and advancing our eMedicare strategic initiative. In response to feedback from users and stakeholders, we’ve already made additional changes during Open Enrollment to improve the user experience. Many users, from beneficiaries and caregivers to the State Health Insurance Program counselors and agents who help them compare plans, have sent us meaningful suggestions. As we’ve said, the Plan Finder redesign is an iterative project, and in the coming months we’ll be scoping out additional improvements that we can implement based on lessons we learn this year.

Some have expressed concern that Plan Finder’s default sort displays plans with the lowest monthly premium costs first, instead of the lowest total estimated out-of-pocket costs. This is, indeed, a change from previous years. It highlights a fixed and known cost that most people easily understand, and tell us through feedback and user testing that they use for initial comparisons. Total estimated out-of-pocket cost is also displayed prominently, because we agree that it’s another important consideration when comparing options. For users who decide that’s the most important number for them, they can easily change to sort plan results on total estimated out-of-pocket cost instead, with just a mouse click. Changing how we sort results is a pretty common behavior for most web users, but we’ve made it even easier by including a number of tips and pop-up boxes to highlight this option.

Of course we want to ensure that beneficiaries are confident in their decisions and happy with the coverage they choose. We have protections such as Special Enrollment Periods in place if something happens to shake that confidence. As is the case every year, our call center representatives and staff caseworkers can help beneficiaries throughout the year if they believe they made the wrong plan choice because of inaccurate or misleading information. This process isn’t new, but this year we’re doubling down on ensuring that it’s a simple and painless experience for beneficiaries. Our staff is trained and ready to help any beneficiary who needs it.  All they need to do is call 1-800 MEDICARE. Again, we’ve always had a Special Enrollment Period for people who think they made a wrong choice due to inaccurate information.

Now’s the time to look at your Medicare coverage and find the plan that’s right for you. Open Enrollment ends Saturday, December 7. 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 meet their health needs. Whether they use Plan Finder, call 1-800-MEDICARE, use plans’ direct websites, or consult an agent or broker, we hope all beneficiaries take advantage of this opportunity to compare plan options. Or, we hope that they shop to affirm that their current coverage is still the best for their needs and budget.

And, of course, we’re here to help. After Thanksgiving, 1-800 MEDICARE is open 24-hours a day to help people understand their options, navigate through Plan Finder, enroll over the phone and answer questions. We’re committed to providing all beneficiaries with the accurate and reliable help and information they’ve come to expect from Medicare.

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