Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Medicare Plan Finders Confuse or Help?

Have you ever used the Medicare Plan Finder?  The GAO released a report a few days ago about it. Medicare Plan Finder: Usability Problems and Incomplete Information Create Challenges for Beneficiaries Comparing Coverage Options explains that the website isn't too user-friendly, with a redesign coming soon.

Medicare beneficiaries have many decisions to make when selecting their health and prescription drug coverage. Their choices affect their out-of-pocket costs and which providers they can see. The Medicare Plan Finder website is a primary source for comparing options.

Many officials who assist beneficiaries in selecting coverage—about three-quarters of those we surveyed—told us beneficiaries struggle with the website. They and others said it is difficult to navigate, contains complex terms, and lacks information needed to compare coverage options.

Medicare’s administrator plans to launch a redesigned website in August.

Here are the highlights from the GAO report:

The Medicare Plan Finder (MPF) website—a primary resource for comparing Medicare coverage options—is difficult for beneficiaries to use and provides incomplete information, according to stakeholders and research studies. These sources and directors of State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP) GAO surveyed—who assist beneficiaries with their Medicare coverage choices—reported that beneficiaries struggle with using MPF because it can be difficult to find information on the website and the information can be hard to understand. For example, MPF

requires navigation through multiple pages before displaying plan details,

lacks prominent instructions to help beneficiaries find information, and

contains complex terms that make it difficult for beneficiaries to understand information.

In response to GAO's survey, 73 percent of SHIP directors reported that beneficiaries experience difficulty finding information in MPF, while 18 percent reported that SHIP counselors experience difficulty.

Further, the results include "incomplete estimates of costs under original Medicare, making it difficult to compare original Medicare and Medicare Advantage (MA), the program's private heath plan alternative."  Further, Medigap plan info isn't included in the results, with 75% "of the SHIP directors surveyed [reporting] that the lack of Medigap information in MPF limits the ability of beneficiaries to compare original Medicare to MA."

This is worrisome, given the emphasis on using the Medicare website for beneficiaries.  So it will be important to examine the redesigned website to make sure it is more user-friendly, and contains complete and accurate info.

The full report is available here. Stay tuned.

 

 

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