The CMS is taking steps to make it easier to sort through Medicare coverage options, after a report said its current search options were badly presented and confusing and could lead some to make poor plan selections.
The CMS will tweak Medicare.gov before open enrollment starts on Oct. 15, making changes to help beneficiaries understand their coverage options, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said Wednesday during a Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan Conference.
"CMS is undertaking several consumer-friendly improvements for Medicare Open Enrollment so that people with Medicare can make an informed choice between original Medicare and Medicare Advantage," Verma said.
As many as 65% of Medicare beneficiaries don't understand what Medicare Advantage is, according to a Morning Consult survey released late last year.
Some of the new tools and features coming later this year include a mobile out-of-pocket cost calculator for prescription drugs, a simplified login process for the Medicare Plan Finder tool, and a webchat option.
These and other changes will help beneficiaries compare options at a deeper level and determine whether Medicare or Medicare Advantage is right for them, Verma said.
Late last month, the National Council on Aging and the Clear Choices Campaign, an advocacy initiative spearheaded by providers and other stakeholders, released a report criticizing the Medicare Plan Finder.
"A tool designed to help beneficiaries better understand their choices is failing in its mission and adding to the confusion and opaqueness that typifies too many Americans' healthcare experience," Joel White, president of Clear Choices, said in a statement.
The report gave Medicare Plan Finder an F for letting consumers know if the plan they were viewing covered their preferred pharmacies and for access to human support. The tool got a D for its layout and letting consumers know if their prescription drugs were covered by a plan.
"Poor plan selection and beneficiary confusion flows from overwhelming, poorly presented information and outdated, potentially misleading user design," the report said.