Report Finds Major Flaws in Federal Medicare Shopping Tool

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Posted: Apr 25, 2018 1:50 PM
Report Finds Major Flaws in Federal Medicare Shopping Tool

A report released Wednesday from the Clear Choices Campaign, a health care cost transparency initiative of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, found major flaws in the federal government’s online tool that helps seniors make Medicare decisions.

In the first-ever independent assessment of the Medicare Plan Finder (MPF), the comparison shopping tool earned seven ‘D’ or ‘F’ grades out of 13 criteria on the report’s scorecard.

These failing grades were for key functions such as access to human support which “indicates whether MPF prominently offers integrated chat functionality or telephone support to obtain further help.”

The tool also received a failing grade in the “integrated provider directory” category which assesses whether MPF allows consumers to search for plans that cover their preferred provider.

The website’s layout got a 'D' grade for being counterintuitive and confusing.

Even an assessment of whether MPF allows users to “input their personal information to determine eligibility for Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs), Low Income Subsidy (LIS), and health condition-specific Special Needs Plans (SNPs) and access customized plan choice information,” resulted in a “D” grade.

The tool’s only two 'A' grades were for its anonymous browsing capabilities and non-English translation services.

The report offers 11 recommendations on how HHS can improve MPF, including integrating a provider directory, redesigning the layout and display, and adding a web chat feature.

“When consumers are empowered with tools to make informed decisions and compare their options, markets respond,” Joel White, president of Clear Choices commented on the report. “Sadly, in this case, 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. We must fundamentally reimagine how MPF delivers information to consumers and, ultimately, have an honest conversation about whether beneficiaries would not be better served by the private sector.”

“Millions of Medicare beneficiaries rely on the Medicare Plan Finder for help with coverage options,” Nancy Cocozza, Aetna’s Head of Medicare, commented. “Unfortunately, this tool is not always intuitive. We applaud this thorough analysis, which identifies the areas that are most confusing for consumers and in greatest need of reform. We call on CMS to review these findings and take steps to implement changes that will allow for easy comparison of Medicare options so beneficiaries can make choices that best meet their overall needs.”