Monday, December 9, 2019
Last week Kaiser Health News reported on mistakes on the Medicare website, which may have causes probelms for beneficiaries chosing their plans during open enrollment. Website Errors Raise Calls For Medicare To Be Flexible With Seniors’ Enrollment explains the extent of the problem.
The overhauled Plan Finder debuted at the end of August, and 2020 plan information was added in October. Over the past three months, Plan Finder problems reported to CMS by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the National Association of Health Underwriters, and state and national consumer advocates included inaccurate details about prices, covered drugs and dosages, and difficulty sorting and saving search results, among other things.
CMS made almost daily corrections and fixes to the website, which is the only tool that can compare dozens of private drug and medical plans ― each with different pharmacy networks, covered drugs and drug prices. The website provides information for more than 60 million people with Medicare and their families, as well as state Medicare counselors and the representatives who answer the 800-MEDICARE help line.
Unsurprisingly, the article notes that some folks signed up before corrections were made, which may not become apparent to them until they use the plan in 2020. Which leads me to my next point.
Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, the senior Democrat on [the Senate Special Committee on Aging], also said Medicare needs to reach out so people know they can request a “special enrollment period” if they discover next year they made a wrong choice due to inaccurate Plan Finder information.
“People with Medicare must be aware that this reprieve exists and should not have to jump through hoops to qualify,” he said. The administration should “use all means necessary” to let beneficiaries know about their options for a special enrollment period.
Fifteen Senate Democrats, led by Casey, sent a letter Thursday to Medicare Administrator Seema Verma asking the agency to “widely publicize the existing SEP for people who were misled by information” in the Medicare Plan Finder and to make switching plans easy.
The Associated Press reported on that at the end of last week. Senators urge Medicare to allow seniors a drug plan do-over:
In its statement Friday, Medicare said it wants to ensure that seniors “are confident in their decisions and happy in the coverage they choose.”
Medicare said it’s always had the ability to grant do-overs, “but this year we’re doubling down on ensuring that choosing their Medicare coverage is a simple and painless experience for beneficiaries.”
Medicare officials told AP that if seniors had problems with the plan finder and were unhappy with the outcome, they could call 1-800-MEDICARE and request to make a switch.
Agency officials said beneficiaries don’t need to use any technical language, only explain what their issue is to the call center representative. No documentation or screen shots will be required.
Stay tuned. This may not be over.