Report Exposes Major Shortcomings in Medicare Plan Finder

Report Exposes Major Shortcomings in Medicare Plan Finder

Medicare beneficiaries and those becoming newly eligible for Medicare are repeatedly told to turn to the federal government’s Medicare Plan Finder (MPF) for unbiased, accurate information on Medicare coverage options. They are advised to go to this comparison tool to find their best coverage choices regarding Medicare fee-for-service, Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. Yet, according to a recent report, Modernizing Medicare Plan Finder: Evaluating and Improving Medicare’s Online Comparison Shopping Experience, this is far from the case. In their scorecard, MPF only received an “A” for its anonymous browsing capabilities and non-English translation services. It earned “D” or “F” grades in 7 of a total of 12 criteria.

 

The report was the result of an independent stakeholder evaluation of the Medicare Plan finder conducted by the Clear Choices Campaign, a health care cost transparency initiative of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, and the nonprofit National Council on Aging (NCOA). While MPF does have a wealth of information, navigating can be difficult and too often the information gleaned is inaccurate. Below are the 10 key findings outlined in the report, as well as 11 key recommendations to improve the Medicare Plan Finder.

 

Key Findings:

  1. Out-of-pocket cost information is difficult to understand.
  2. Provider and pharmacy directories are difficult to navigate.
  3. Plan comparisons do not permit inclusion of Medigap policies.
  4. The website layout and display are confusing.
  5. Language is not user-friendly.
  6. Navigation and functionality are complex and inconsistent.
  7. Human support is not available.
  8. Information on quality star ratings is confusing.
  9. Plan information is not customized well.
  10. Information is not consistently accurate.

 

11 Key Recommendations to Improve MPF:

  1. Displaying costs with decision and prominence
  2. Basing estimated out-of-pocket costs on more detailed information
  3. Integrating a provider directory
  4. Utilizing saved information about consumers’ drugs
  5. Allowing consumers to compare Medicare Advantage plans with an equivalent combination of fee-for-service, Medigap, and standalone drug plans
  6. Redesigning the layout and display to enhance usability and promote intuitive navigation
  7. Replacing insurance jargon with graphics, charts, and plain language
  8. Integrating a web chat feature
  9. Enabling the website to suggest plan options
  10. Contracting to ensure more stringent oversight of MPF’s accuracy
  11. Testing the site with consumers on a regular basis

 

For more report details and information, read to full report.

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.