Episode 17 discusses the latest update to the Medicare Plan Finder Tool on Medicare.gov. As you may have heard, this tool has been significantly altered with AEP right around the corner. Find out what exactly has been changed and why agents everywhere are talking about it.
As we go through all of the Medicare Plan Finder Tool revisions, we will highlight the following categories: saving information, preferred pharmacies, overview of costs, total costs, provider networks, star ratings, drug cost assistance, printed drug list, navigation issues, out-of-pocket max, and old records. Learn what is new and what has remained the same, so that you can figure out the best strategy when enrolling beneficiaries this annual enrollment period.
Finally, we will conclude on a positive note with an interview with agent Paul Coleman. No matter what is going on in the industry, we always try to focus on the good and the lives we can impact for the better professionally and personally.
Sarah: Welcome to Selling SMART with Sarah Smith….
Jessica: And Jessica Vara!
Sarah: Today’s episode is all about the updates to the Medicare Plan Finder Tool on Medicare.gov. So we are going to switch it up a bit on this podcast. We are going to combine the Disruptive Waves section with All Aboard the Knowledge Train because this massive update we have for you will affect your every day selling this AEP…
Jessica: Yes, hopefully you have heard by now that the Medicare Plan Finder tool on Medicare.gov has had a HUGE update recently. The new Medicare Plan Finder tool went live on Medicare.gov on October 1st which unfortunately didn’t give agents much time to play around with the changes and get comfortable with the new tool before AEP.
Sarah: So if you haven’t familiarized yourself with these changes already, you really should before AEP! These changes will affect how you use the tool during appointments to get beneficiaries the right coverage for their needs.
Jessica: Forbes had a few articles on the most important changes to the Medicare Plan Finder tool. So let’s break down the changes and then we can dive in to how they will affect you.
Sarah: Starting with how you save information…
- Saving Information – One of the biggest potential issues for agents is the ability to save information. The only way to save information now on the new Medicare Plan Finder Tool is to have an account on Medicare.gov. But here’s the catch: to create an account you need to have a Medicare number and you might need to add some other other health information. Now you could technically fudge that other information, but you have to have a Medicare number. This means agents may be unable to save information. This also means that if a beneficiary who is new to Medicare and not yet 65 wanted to browse plans and save information to discuss with an agent, they wouldn’t be able to do so as far as I can tell when I was messing around today with the new Medicare Plan Finder Tool.(Source)
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- What’s frustrating is that the old Medicare Plan Finder Tool on Medicare.gov would save your information and create a profile for you including your zip code, current coverage, and current subsidy level and it would sit up in the corner while you were doing a search and it would add information as created. This no longer saves, so you’ll have to start over every time you want to use the site.
- This also includes the “Retrieve My Saved Drug List” This was an awesome feature for agents and benes alike. You could go through the website, add the drugs and you would be able to save that drug list and it would give you a drug list id number and the date it was created. And then you could just go back in and input the drug list id number and the date it was created and it would retrieve that drug list and you wouldn’t have to go back and populate drugs every time. Many beneficiaries are taking many drugs. Some are taking 10 prescriptions, 20 prescriptions, who knows! So entering those in every single time is just a total hassle. This also was helpful if a bene wanted to use it to print their drugs to take to the pharmacy. Nope, that feature is gone as well 🙁
- Another thing about the Adding Drug page that’s been updated is that the old page used to show you whether the drug you input was generic and if there were generic options available to lower costs. When I was in there today I did not see this feature anywhere so if that’s a feature that is available, I don’t think a beneficiary would easily find it.
- You also used to be able to refine plan results. For example, if you only want MA only plans or MAPD plans you could choose between them. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to filter for those fields. You can filter by carrier and star ratings and then filter by coverage options like vision, dental, hearing, transportation, and fitness.
- Preferred Pharmacies – The new Medicare Plan Finder tool will make finding preferred pharmacies a challenge. The older version had two methods to retrieve this information. You could find the Pharmacy network and see a chart of all preferred, standard, or out-of-network pharmacies in a specific zip code. Another option was to click on the View Drug Cost Summary on the comparison page. This would create a comparison of pharmacies and identified if it was preferred, standard, or out-of-network. The new Plan Finder tool does not have either option available for identifying preferred pharmacies. If you want to find preferred pharmacies, you would need to change pharmacies and then compare costs. This is an inefficient method and depending on the drug, may not be accurate. (Source)
- Old site would show which pharmacies were preferred while on the Selecting Your Pharmacies page. That no longer exists so if a bene was looking for this information, they probably wouldn’t even find it.
- Overview of Costs – In the past, agents could click on a link on the Overview page of the Legacy Plan Finder and find all the information surrounding the plan’s cost and sharing information. This information does not appear on the updated tool. (Source)
- Total Costs – The older Plan Finder tool easily displayed total out-of-pocket drug costs for the year, including monthly premiums and costs for prescriptions. The new Plan Finder estimates yearly costs at retail or mail order pharmacies, but they do not include the premium. To get this cost you would need to multiply the premium by 12 and add that cost to the estimated costs. There have been reports that CMS is aware of this flaw and is working to fix it but we haven’t heard an update on this just yet but hopefully they will fix it before AEP starts. (Source)
And now time, for an SMA Value Ad:
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- Provider Networks – The older Plan Finder had a link to the plan’s provider network site. This allowed agents and beneficiaries to find in-network physicians. However, the new Plan Finder does not have this link, so it may be difficult to find this information. (Source)
- Star Ratings – Star ratings are an important factor when enrolling in a plan. The new Plan Finder tools does not have information on people who left the plan (or why they left) and the rating for “ease of getting prescription filled” is no longer available. (Source) Right now the “Star Rating” just says “Coming Soon”… hopefully this feature will be added soon?
- Drug Cost Assistance – The old Medicare Plan Finder Tool had a link to “lower your drug costs.” This link will take you to a page that would identify any assistance available for a specific medication. However, the new Plan Finder tool’s link takes you to a generic medicare.gov with 6 ways to get help with your prescription costs. (Source)
- Printed Drug List – This is kind of something I talked about earlier. The old Medicare Plan Finder Tool had a drug list that could be printed on a simple, one-page document. Many beneficiaries would take this to their physician appointments. However, the new Plan Finder does not have a one-page option. Instead, beneficiaries would need to to print each page of the drug lists, and only 3-4 drugs fit per page. (Source)
- Navigation Issues – The new Medicare Plan Finder Tool has several navigation issues. These issues include locations changing when searching for pharmacies in two locations, no option to view all plans on one page, and less sorting options when filtering plans. (Source)
- Out-of-Pocket Max – the out-of-pocket maximum on the comparison page is wrong. Instead, it shows estimated total costs for the year. (Source)
- Old Records – Records from the old Medicare Plan Finder Tool will not migrate into the new one. This means agents and beneficiaries will need to take extra time when entering data and there is a higher chance of errors. (Source)
Hopefully you were able to print off drugs lists or any other old records you had for your clients, but if not it may be a good idea to start doing that in the future. That way if any major changes happen again you will be prepared! We live and we learn!
Yeah this is a really frustrating thing. I think a lot of agents really just didn’t know that all of these changes were coming. They didn’t know that all this information would be purged. Now there is just no access to it. And it’s annoying for agents who may have used the Medicare Plan Finder Tool to house information to use to prepare before appointments. It just makes the whole process more tedious.
But with all that let’s try to stay on the positive side! I mean really this is just the government is making this big push to make it easier for Medicare-eligibles. And they want it to be easier for them to find information and to learn about plans that are out there. I think that is the intent but as technology changes we are bound to hit bumps in the road and this appears to be one of them. But hopefully in the grand scheme of things, it will all work out in the end.
Obviously, these updates are causing agents huge headaches and are not ideal, but as you should know if you listen to our podcast regularly, we try to stay positive.
This is there biggest overhaul they’ve done to the site in years. So it’s not surprising that there is bugs and things that they didn’t prepare for or they missed. So hopefully it is a work in progress and will improve. We know all these changes are not ideal but as you know if you listen to our podcast regularly, we always try to end on a positive note.
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Jessica: We appreciate you joining us this week on Selling SMART
Sarah: with Senior Market Advisors!