The new Medicare Plan Finder will be the exclusive source of information for 2020 Part D drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans. According to a CMS promotional video, beneficiaries can create an “online account for a personalized experience.” People approaching age 65 or getting ready to retire will have to select some type of plan. However, they will not be able to create the new Medicare Plan Finder personalized experience.
To recognize the impact of changes, you must understand how the current or Legacy Plan Finder operates.
George turned 65 in January 2019 so he started checking out Medicare in November 2018. Rather than do the research himself, George visited an independent insurance agent. She entered George’s medications into the Plan Finder. As soon as the agent entered the last drug, the system generated a Drug List ID (number) and a Password Date (the date of initial entry). She wrote down that information, gave it to George, and then proceeded to enter pharmacies and help him review plans.
Three weeks later, George decided to visit his SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) counselor. He shared his Drug List ID and Password Date with the counselor and together they studied plans.
After those two sessions, George logged into the Legacy Plan Finder at home, just to check out a few things, and then was set to enroll in the plan of his choice.
Fast forward to September 2019.
Janice is planning to retire in October so she goes to the Legacy Plan Finder, enters her medications and pharmacies, writes down the Drug List ID and Password Date, and starts her research.
Then, Janice’s retirement date changes to January 1, 2020. She must now use the new Medicare Plan Finder. Surprise! She cannot access her record because information vanished with the old Plan Finder. Because she does not yet have a Medicare number, she cannot establish a My Medicare.gov account and, without an account, the system does not save information. Okay, she understands that so she’ll do a thorough review in one sitting. Janice proceeds to enter her medications (all 11 of them) and pharmacies again. She finds three plans that look good and prints out every piece of information.
In December, her physician orders three new medications, including one that is very costly. If Janice wants to find the most cost-effective plan, she must enter all her medications (now 14 in all) and pharmacies again.
Janice retires as planned, on January 1, 2020, but she is not done with data entry. If she plans to use the Medicare Plan Finder to help her during the 2020 Fall Open Enrollment Period, she must enter everything one more time. However, because she now has a Medicare number, she can set up an account with a user name and password and she’ll be good to go.
Those getting ready to enroll in Medicare will face headaches. Without a Medicare number, they cannot establish an account and save their information. It’s likely they will re-enter information multiple times during the enrollment process. With 10,000 people turning 65 every day, and thousands more retiring, there will be lots of headaches as they try to figure out Medicare.