CMS updates Medicare Plan Finder for usability

CMS is updating its Medicare Plan Finder for the first time in a decade. Revamped with a modern redesign, the Plan Finder is the most used tool on Medicare.gov and enables users to shop and compare Medicare Advantage and Part D plans. Nearly 600 MA plans were added in 2019.

The new Plan Finder also offers a mobile friendly and easy-to-read version to provide users and their caregivers with a more personalized experience to learn about their different coverage options, according to CMS. The tool walks a user through the enrollment process from start to finish and makes supplemental benefits viewable.

The redesign aligns with the Trump administration’s other efforts to improve eMedicare by expanding and improving on current Medicare consumer service options. The administration has also taken up other initiatives to improve interoperability and accessibility of patient health records.

“The redesigned Medicare Plan Finder is another example of how CMS is empowering beneficiaries with price and quality information to take advantage of lower rates and new benefits in Medicare Advantage and Part D,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement.

The improvement to the tool comes at a time when plan premiums have declined, with Part D premiums dropping 13.5% on average over the past three years, from $34.70 in 2017 to a projected $30 in 2020.

The new Plan Finder will come out in a phased rollout, and user will be able to use the updated and old versions through the end of September 2019 “to allow time for users to try out and become familiar with the new version,” CMS noted. The new version has been in use for a month at the CMS Medicare call centers (1-800-MEDICARE). CMS is providing support and training for usage of the new tool, which also allows users to build a personal drug list and find Medicare Part D prescription drugs plans that fit their needs.

“We want consumers to have the best tool possible when open enrollment begins on October 15. Try it out and let us know what you think,” Verma said.

The update came after input form users and consumer tests, as well as stakeholders. The new tool will better enable mobile users as the platform choice continues to grow among consumers. In 2018, just a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries accessed Medicare Plan Finder on mobile devices, a 40% jump from 2017.

CMS is also working on updating other Medicare benefits tools, including a “What’s Covered” app that explains benefits coverage; a price transparency tool; an interactive online decision support offering to help people better understand the different Medicare options; an online service that compares estimated out-of-pocket costs; a webchat within Plan Finder to offer on-the-spot support; and surveys for consumers to provide feedback.