At the End of another Successful Medicare Open Enrollment, CMS is Dedicated to Ensuring Seniors are Confident in their Choices
As we start a new year, we know that for many seniors January 1st also signals a fresh start for their Medicare health insurance coverage. Coverage and costs may change, deductibles reset, and those who changed health or drug plans start learning about their new plan benefits. Another successful Medicare Open Enrollment wrapped up on December 7th, but the need to help seniors understand and access their coverage did not. CMS’ dedication to that goal is ironclad and unwavering.
On the heels of Open Enrollment, I am pleased to report several important successes in CMS’ historic update to Medicare Plan Finder. Despite the unprecedented traffic and scale of the changes, we experienced no system outages. Our metrics show that from this year to last year the number of unique visitors to Plan Finder increased by 116% and the number of page views increased by 121%. Additionally, the number of sessions per user in the tool decreased by 64%, indicating that users found it easier to complete their task with fewer visits.
During this same time, Plan Finder users were able to navigate the tool more easily: visitors who viewed their Plan Results rose an impressive 35 percentage points, from 22% in 2018 to 57% in 2019. The significance of the data is unmistakable: increased usage of the updated Plan Finder was coupled with more successful task completions and reduced need for return visits per user. Overall, that adds up to a more effective and convenient experience for beneficiaries.
Nevertheless, CMS understands that for a variety of reasons, a coverage change may be necessary. For example, a beneficiary might have experienced exceptional conditions that require a new plan choice, such as being provided incorrect or misleading information. So CMS provides “Special Enrollment Periods” (SEPs) and other options to help beneficiaries with any necessary change.
Beneficiaries that have concerns about their coverage at any time during the year can call 1-800- MEDICARE, and the weeks following Open Enrollment are no exception. Call center representatives are trained to listen to concerns and help resolve the issue based on individual situations. Sometimes, that might involve using an SEP that would allow a change in plans. Other times, the issue might be resolved in some other way, such as working with the beneficiary’s current plan to institute coverage exceptions. Regardless, CMS is ready to help in any way possible to address concerns.
Every year, individuals enrolled in Medicare Advantage (with or without drug coverage) also have the opportunity to switch to another plan, drop their plan, or to return to Original Medicare during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, which runs from January 1st through March 31st.
With an unprecedented level of health and drug plans and more flexible supplemental benefit options than ever before, it’s important for Medicare beneficiaries to understand what their Medicare plans offer and what works best for them. We remain committed to offering seniors the best tools to compare their options and choose a plan that fits their needs.