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Medicare Enrollment Updates || Center for Medicare Advocacy

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The Annual Coordinated Election Interval (ACEP), from October 15 via December 7, 2018, is the time interval throughout which Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in, change, or disenroll from Medicare Benefit (MA, or Half C) plans and Half D prescription drug plans.  Elections made throughout this time interval might be efficient January 1, 2019.  Details about 2019 MA and Half D plan choices is now obtainable on, and advertising of such plans has begun.

This CMA Enrollment Alert describes the ultimate 2019 Medicare & You handbook, new on-line instruments produced by the Facilities for Medicare and Medicaid Providers (CMS) and their drawbacks, details about 2019 MA plans, and modifications in enrollment durations.

Medicare & You 2019 – Last Draft Improved

Since Fall 2018, the Middle for Medicare Advocacy has highlighted how CMS supplies, together with the 2018 Medicare & You handbook and outreach and enrollment paperwork, have inspired beneficiaries to decide on a personal Medicare plan over unique Medicare as an alternative of extra objectively presenting enrollment choices (see, e.g., right here and right here).  

When the draft 2019 Medicare & You handbook (Handbook) was launched this Might for stakeholder enter, the Middle and different shopper advocates have been alarmed at obtrusive inaccuracies within the doc, which, amongst different issues, perpetuated steering beneficiaries in the direction of MA plans.  As mentioned in a earlier CMA Alert, in Might 2018, the Middle joined Justice in Getting older and the Medicare Rights Middle in writing to CMS about considerations with the draft Handbook. 

As our organizations asserted on the time, relatively than presenting info in an goal and unbiased approach, the draft Handbook’s details about conventional Medicare and Medicare Benefit (MA) distorted and mischaracterized details in critical methods.  For instance, the draft Handbook:

  • Steered that MA is the inexpensive various for beneficiaries;
  • Failed to spotlight the clear distinction between conventional Medicare and MA: Conventional Medicare supplies entry to all Medicare collaborating suppliers nationwide, whereas MA limits entry to a set community of suppliers in a selected geographic space; and
  • Characterised prior authorization necessities in MA plans, that are restrictions on entry to providers, as a profit, relatively than as what they’re: Obligatory hurdles for MA members not required for people in conventional Medicare.

After contemplating our feedback and assembly with our organizations, CMS addressed probably the most critical inaccuracies and omissions within the last model of the Handbook, as mentioned in a letter our teams despatched to CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

For instance, the Handbook not references prior authorization in MA plans as a “benefit” moderately than a barrier to accessing care and in charts evaluating MA and conventional Medicare, appropriately highlights one of many key distinctions between the 2 protection choices – entry to suppliers, with restricted networks in most MA plans.  Moreover, assertions that MA plans are the least costly various for beneficiaries are tempered.

As famous in our letter to CMS, nevertheless, extra must be achieved in each the Handbook and different CMS supplies to make sure that “beneficiaries have access to accurate, understandable information that is presented from a neutral and balanced perspective.” As mentioned under, this consists of newly launched CMS on-line instruments, which seem to perpetuate inappropriate steering in the direction of personal MA plans.

New On-line Instruments on – MA Steering Continues

In an October 1, 2018 press launch, CMS introduced the eMedicare initiative “that will empower patients and update Medicare resources to meet beneficiaries’ expectation of a more personalized customer experience [… and] will modernize the way beneficiaries get information about Medicare and create new ways to help them make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”  As a part of this initiative, CMS has launched:

  • “An improved protection wizard to assist beneficiaries examine choices at a deeper degree as a solution to determine if Unique Medicare or Medicare Benefit is true for them; 
  • A stand alone, cellular optimized out of pocket value calculator that may present info on each general prices and prescription drug prices”

As mentioned under, nevertheless, these instruments seem to favor enrollment in Medicare Benefit by offering overly broad, blanket strategies to enroll in MA plans when rather more nuance is required.

The brand new protection wizard is situated on the homepage by way of the Examine Protection Choices button.  Till just lately, the identical hyperlink despatched you to a 10 query device that requested a collection of questions aimed toward serving to you determine whether or not MA or conventional Medicare can be higher for you.  As mentioned within the Middle’s current Report on Half C and D modifications, these questions included, amongst different issues, a query about persistent circumstances that steered individuals in the direction of an MA plan (see, dialogue within the report at footnote 41-42). 

Now the protection software has been shortened to the next 5 questions, and, based mostly upon “yes” or “no” responses, supplies “results” suggesting both MA or conventional Medicare.  

  1. Would you like your Medicare protection to incorporate prescribed drugs?
  2. Would you like additional protection to assist pay the 20% of your medical payments Unique Medicare does not cowl?
  3. Would you like Medicare protection for imaginative and prescient and/or dental?
  4. Do you journey lots, or stay in one other state a part of the yr?
  5. Would you like Medicare protection for frequent worldwide journey?

If a person responds “yes” to both four or 5 relating to journey or dwelling in one other state, the device appropriately guides you towards conventional Medicare as a result of most MA plans have restricted networks which are restricted to a given service space (often a county). Nevertheless the query doesn’t ask, because it ought to, whether or not the person has household or buddies outdoors their native space who they could need to be with in the event that they turn out to be sick or injured.

When you reply “yes” to 2 “Do you want extra coverage to help pay the 20% of your medical bills Original Medicare doesn’t cover?” the software recommends becoming a member of an MA plan.  The obvious reply can be to recommend a Medicare Complement/Medigap which in virtually all instances covers the 20%. Nevertheless, there isn’t a point out of some other supplemental protection choices, corresponding to Medigap, Medicaid, and so forth. regardless that in an MA plan, whereas there’s an out-of-pocket restrict, a person won’t have all of their cost-sharing coated. Though Medigap enrollment rights are extra restricted than alternatives to enroll in MA, Medigaps ought to be talked about right here as an choice, together with the enrollment limitations.  Figuring out which choice is cheaper for a person – MA vs. conventional Medicare with a Medigap and Half D plan – will depend upon various elements, together with geography, sort of plan chosen, particular person well being, and utilization of providers. In different phrases, a blanket response suggesting enrollment in an MA plan is unwarranted and may be inaccurate based mostly upon these variables. 

The second on-line software, the out-of-pocket value estimator (see Estimate Medicare Prices on the homepage) bears this level out.  With out analyzing how these estimates are calculated and their general accuracy, performing searches in several geographic areas (and even altering the search standards in the identical space) can produce totally different estimates with respect as to if MA is cheaper than conventional Medicare and a Medigap plus a Half D plan (see, e.g., instance in textual content field under). 

Medicare Value Estimate Device: Instance from DC and A Suburb

The fee estimator device permits a person to enter a zipper code, well being standing (“good” is the default, “excellent” or “poor”) and premium degree for an MA plan, Medigap and Half D plan (“low”, “medium” or “high”). 

Choosing “medium” premiums for MA, Medigap and Half D plans, the device produced the next estimated annual out-of-pocket quantities within the following 2 zip codes, which differ based mostly upon chosen well being standing:

Zip Code 20036 – Washington, DC

Good Well being = MA is $450.48 costlier
Wonderful Well being = MA is $137.52 inexpensive
Poor well being = MA is $113.52 is inexpensive

Zip Code 20902 – Montgomery Co., MD (DC Suburb)

Good well being = MA is $344.76 costlier   
Wonderful well being = MA is $531.24 inexpensive
Poor well being = MA is $656.76 costlier

Query three, which asks if you need protection for imaginative and prescient and/or dental, directs people who reply “yes” to an MA plan. Whereas many MA plans do supply some restricted protection of listening to, imaginative and prescient and/or dental providers, such protection is under no circumstances common, and varies significantly (see, e.g., a 2016 Well being Affairs Weblog that gives knowledge on MA enrollees coated by supplemental advantages).  Directing individuals to MA in the event that they categorical a want for “vision and/or dental” has the potential to oversell such protection out there via MA plans, steering people to hitch MA; the protection software ought to no less than observe such limitations within the reply.  As reported by the Commonwealth Fund in a January 2018 report,

[a]mong Medicare beneficiaries, 75 % of people that wanted a listening to assist didn’t have one; 70 % of people that had hassle consuming due to their tooth didn’t go to the dentist prior to now yr; and 43 % of people that had hassle seeing didn’t have an eye fixed examination up to now yr. […] As a result of few individuals have supplemental insurance coverage overlaying these further providers, amongst individuals who acquired care, three-fourths of their prices of dental and listening to providers and 60 % of their prices of imaginative and prescient providers have been paid out of pocket.

Whereas on-line instruments could be useful, they need to not supply shortcuts that oversimplify the choices a person should make, notably in the event that they don’t describe all the choices, comparable to Medigap plans, in reply to query #2.  CMS ought to revise these instruments accordingly.  Finally, on-line instruments shouldn’t substitute particular person, unbiased counseling, resembling that provided by State Well being Insurance coverage Help Packages (SHIPs – see

MA Panorama

Details about 2019 Medicare Benefit and Half D plan choices at the moment are obtainable on-line at  In a September 28, 2018 press launch, CMS offered details about the panorama of MA and Half D plans obtainable in 2019, together with the next excerpts:

  • Enrollment in Medicare Benefit is projected to be at an all-time excessive in 2019 with 22.6 million Medicare beneficiaries. This represents a projected 2.four million (11.5 %) improve from 20.2 million in 2018. Based mostly on projected enrollment, 36.7% of Medicare beneficiaries can be enrolled in Medicare Benefit in 2019.
  • Nationally, the variety of Medicare Benefit plan decisions will improve from about three,100 in 2018 to about three,700 in 2019 – and greater than 91 % of individuals with Medicare with have entry to 10 or extra Medicare Benefit plans in 2019, in comparison with almost 86 % in 2018. 
  • The typical variety of Medicare plan decisions per county will improve by 5 plans – as much as roughly 34 plan decisions per county.
  • On account of new flexibilities out there for the primary time in 2019, almost 270 Medicare Benefit plans will probably be offering an estimated 1.5 million enrollees new varieties of supplemental advantages:
    • Expanded health-related supplemental advantages, akin to grownup day care providers, and in-home and caregiver help providers; and
    • Decreased value sharing and extra advantages for enrollees with sure circumstances, such diabetes and congestive coronary heart failure because of the company’s reinterpretation of uniformity necessities.

With respect to the brand new forms of supplemental advantages described above, the Middle just lately issued a Particular Elements C and D Report that each describes the scope of such advantages, and raises considerations about how their availability may influence shopper decision-making.

Reminder: Enrollment Interval Modifications 

Pursuant to modifications in federal regulation, the Medicare Benefit Disenrollment Interval (MADP), which beforehand allowed people to disenroll from an MA plan through the first 45 days of the calendar yr, shall be changed in 2019 with the Medicare Benefit Open Enrollment Interval (MA OEP).  Throughout this era people already enrolled in an MA plan as of January 1 (or new Medicare beneficiaries who’re enrolled in an MA plan throughout their Preliminary Protection Election Interval) might enroll in one other MA plan or disenroll from their MA plan and return to conventional Medicare.  People may add or drop Half D protection through the MA OEP.  Just one election is allowed throughout this era and the efficient date for election is the primary of the month following receipt of the enrollment requests.  The MA OEP happens from January by way of March 31 for people enrolled in an MA plan.  For brand spanking new Medicare beneficiaries who’re enrolled in an MA plan throughout their ICEP the MA OEP happens the month of entitlement to Half A and Half B – the final day of the third month of entitlement. 

Additionally notice that the Particular Enrollment Interval (SEP) for people dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and people with the Half D low-income subsidy (LIS) will probably be altering from an open-ended month-to-month SEP to at least one that can be utilized solely as soon as per calendar quarter in the course of the first 9 months of the yr (January via September).