New Technology Gives Medicare Seniors More Choice And Control

posted by AHIP

on June 10, 2019

CMS offers new digital tools for Medicare enrollment
with eMedicare initiative

Technology can make it easier for seniors to understand and use their health coverage. With that in mind, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a multi-year eMedicare initiative last fall. The goal of eMedicare is to “empower patients and update Medicare resources,” giving seniors a more personalized customer experience.

AHIP applauds CMS for investing resources to improve the ways Medicare-eligible Americans can review their Medicare choices. CMS is improving access through eMedicare, Medicare Plan Finder website enhancements, and changes to the Medicare & You Handbook.

As part of eMedicare, CMS released several new webtools.

  • A webchat function for some Medicare Plan Finder users in pilot stage
  • An out-of-pocket cost calculator
  • Coverage options wizard to help seniors compare Medicare Advantage and Traditional Medicare.

CMS has planned improvements to Medicare Plan Finder website.

  • More information about Medicare options
  • Enhanced drug cost and coverage info
  • Integrated Medigap info

Medicare Plan Finder continues to be an important resource for seniors choosing between traditional Medicare and a Medicare Advantage plan. When consumers enter some basic information, the Medicare Plan Finder website shows them traditional Medicare and other plan options available in their geography.

  • For traditional Medicare, it describes the Standard Part B premium and deductible, and notes that any willing doctor is covered, but that there is no out-of-pocket spending limit.
  • For Medicare Advantage plan options, the site includes monthly premiums and deductibles for each plan, including whether there is a Part B premium reduction. It notes that there is an out-of-pocket maximum and that only plan doctors are available for most services.
  • Additional information, such as Overall Star Ratings, are provided to help compare between Medicare Advantage plans.

CMS provides online access to annual Medicare & You Handbook.

Through the electronic and printed handbook, CMS makes sure consumers know about all of the available resources that can help them make informed decisions.

  • A chart outlines the critical differences between the Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare programs in a clear, balanced, and appropriate way.
  • The chart highlights differences such as a yearly limit on out-of-pocket costs for Medicare Advantage plan members, possible additional supplemental benefits, and Part D drug coverage included in many Medicare Advantage plans.
  • The chart points out that under Medicare Advantage, there may be a more limited provider network and possible referrals required for specialists, rather than the ability to see any doctor that accepts Medicare under traditional Medicare.
  • The handbook flags the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which can provide “free, personalized help with … choosing a health plan.”

CMS will continue to improve Medicare Plan Finder to provide seniors with reliable, consistent information. While more changes are necessary, seniors still can use Medicare Plan Finder to help decide which coverage is right for them. Seniors can rely on clear and balanced information from CMS, and we look forward to working with the agency to further improve these important resources for Medicare beneficiaries.

At the Spring Conference, CMS indicated Medicare Plan Finder redesign efforts will include testing with stakeholders, including health insurance providers. This approach is precisely what’s needed to ensure that seniors can better get the information they need to choose the Medicare coverage that’s best for them.

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