Coalition writes “It is absolutely critical that CMS end its unfair and taxpayer-financed competition with the private sector”
WASHINGTON, DC (August 5, 2019): Days after the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a startling report on shortcomings in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) online shopping tool, Medicare Plan Finder (MPF), the Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC) sent new correspondence to the agency warning against the latest efforts to tinker around the edges with the beleaguered website.
CMS plans to replace MPF – which received a grade of “D” or “F” in seven of 13 scoring categories in a 2018 CAHC-led study – with “Medicare Coverage Tools” (MCT) ahead of the next enrollment season. The agency has done little to explain how the rebranded site will improve upon the failed status quo in which 73 percent of State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) directors say that it is “difficult” or “very difficult” for beneficiaries to compare plan information. CAHC has championed turning over the site’s enrollment functions to the private sector.
“No amount of tinkering with MPF – not even a slick name change – will change the incentives at play,” explains CAHC in its letter. “Government bureaucracies simply do not keep up with market demand. If this site’s grip on Medicare enrollment and comparison shopping is allowed to fester, we believe many private efforts will fail or will simply move on to other challenges.”
CAHC’s correspondence further advises that “CMS should fill the legitimate public role of providing information on all plans and options available under Medicare, but it should end permanently its foray into e-commerce by ceasing MCT’s enrollment functions. It is absolutely critical that CMS end its unfair and taxpayer-financed competition with the private sector.”
Timeline of CAHC’s Recent Work to Reform Medicare Plan Finder:
- April 25, 2018: CAHC’s Clear Choices Campaign and the National Council on Aging release their joint report, “Modernizing Medicare Plan Finder: Evaluating and Improving Medicare’s Online Comparison Shopping Experience.” The report gave Medicare Plan Finder grades of “D” or “F” in seven out of 13 criteria and issued 11 key recommendations for improvement, while also positing that “faced with limited budgets and considering the vast experience and expertise in the private sector, MPF could be partially or fully privatized.”
- October 1, 2018: CMS’s eMedicare initiative announces changes to the Medicare Plan Finder tool mirroring some CAHC recommendations.
- February 8, 2019: At a meeting of CMS’s National Medicare Education Program (NMEP), the agency announces that it will replace Medicare Plan Finder with “Medicare Coverage Tools,” which it bills as “a suite of digital services that will help Medicare Beneficiaries and those who help them easily find and enroll in coverage that meets their needs.” To date, the public lacks clear information about the new site’s features or costs.
- July 30, 2019: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issues a new report on Medicare Plan Finder, which cited CAHC’s own research and found that the site “is difficult for beneficiaries to use and provides incomplete information.”
- August 2, 2019: CAHC writes to CMS about the pitfalls of Medicare Plan Finder and the looming “Medicare Coverage Tools,” saying “No amount of tinkering with MPF – not even a slick name change – will change the incentives at play. Government bureaucracies simply do not keep up with market demand …[CMS] should end permanently its foray into e-commerce by ceasing MCT’s enrollment functions.”