Medicare Website To Help Seniors Choose Right Option Too Cumbersome, Incomplete Charges GAO

The Medicare Plan Finder website, aimed to help seniors comparing Medicare coverage option, is difficult to navigate and understand, charges the Government Accountability Office in a new report.

MPF is also faulty because the information it provides is insufficient, contends the study from GAO, the investigative arm of Congress.

The user unfriendliness of the interactive website creates a number of barriers to aiding Medicare seniors choose the right plan, the report contends.

Among the sins of commission and omission:

• It requires navigation through multiple pages before displaying plan details,

• It lacks prominent instructions to help beneficiaries find information.

• It contains complex terms that make it difficult for beneficiaries to understand information.

“Beneficiaries struggle to understand cost estimates and interpret how much they will have to pay,” the authors say they were told by stakeholders including users and State Health Insurance Programs workers.

They pointed out the cost estimates on the plan results pages are incomplete because they do not include the effect of Medigap—which helps cover beneficiaries’ cost sharing responsibilities under original Medicare.

“As a result, beneficiaries who want to use MPF to compare original Medicare with a Medigap plan to specific Medicare Advantage plans are unable to do so,” the study explains.

Comparing costs among plans is also difficult, says the report, because the website explains health coverage terminology poorly and does not use plain language so many seniors might not be able to understand the cost differences between generic and brand-name drugs.

Pointing to the need of seniors to have an easy-to-use tool to help decide which option is best for them, study notes a beneficiary could choose from an average of 24 Medicare Advantage plans, each with different coverage, costs, and providers.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services told GAO an easier-to-use version of Medicare Plan Finder should be unveiled in early August.

Here is the Medicare Plan Finder website: Medicare Plan Finder for Health, Prescription Drug and Medigap plans

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