Medicare plan finder is getting a revamp

Aug. 5, 2019
Usability problems and incomplete information create challenges for beneficiaries comparing coverage options

Medicare beneficiaries - more than 60 million as of 2019 - have a series of decisions to make when selecting their Medicare health and prescription drug coverage. Beneficiaries must first choose between two main options for their Medicare coverage: either original fee-for-service Medicare or MA. Within these two options, beneficiaries have many additional choices, and they are permitted to change their coverage at least annually. These selections can be difficult due to the Medicare program's complexity and can have important implications for beneficiaries' out-of-pocket costs and access to providers.

Many officials who assist beneficiaries in selecting coverage - about three-quarters of those surveyed recently by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) - said beneficiaries struggle with the website. They and others, according to GAO’s public release, said it is difficult to navigate, contains complex terms, and lacks information needed to compare coverage options.

What GAO found:

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.

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