Medicare overhauls beneficiary open enrollment tool for 2020

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has modernized and redesigned its Medicare Plan Finder website in the first revamp of the site in a decade.

The plan finder, which in years past has been the most used feature on the Medicare.gov site, is now meant to make it easier for Medicare beneficiaries to compare and shop for Medicare Advantage coverage and Part D drug plans. More than 60 million people have Medicare coverage.

The new version is mobile-friendly and walks beneficiaries and caregivers through the options so they can select coverage that best meets their needs, as well as examining supplemental benefits, according to the agency.

CMS was compelled to improve its plan finder tools to accommodate a growing number of tech-savvy beneficiaries, the agency acknowledges, while emphasizing that the online tools do not replace traditional customer service options such as access to paper copies of the Medicare & You handbook. Further, beneficiaries can still call the 1-800-MEDICARE phone number.

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In the new version, 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 build more accurate drug lists, streamlined end-to-end flow for users, as well as ensured mobile optimization supports desktops, tablets and smartphones.

With the redesign of the tool, beneficiaries are now able to:

· Compare pricing between Original Medicare, Medicare prescription drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Supplement insurance policies (Medigap);
· Compare coverage options on 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 additional benefits; and
· Build a personal drug list and find Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage that meets needs.

Both the old and new plan finder will be available and run in parallel through September 2019 to enable users to try out and become familiar with the latest version. CMS is offering in-person and online training, developing tip sheets and will host a webinar in September to coincide with the start of Medicare open enrollment beginning on October 15 and ending on December 7.

“We want consumers to have the best tool possible when open enrollment begins on October 15,” says CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

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