Medicare just redesigned their Plan Finder tool, and... it's quite different. Some changes are for the better, and some are for the worse, in our opinion.
If you’re anything like us, we found some of the updates pretty concerning, and it’s easy for all of us to hit the panic button. However, as the old adage goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
We've updated our Medicare Part D Cheat Sheet and have adapted it to help you through the changes.
Instead of trying to figure this out on your own, we encourage you to follow these steps to help you successfully run a drug comparison. All that said, let's get into why the Plan Finder is being revamped, what the big changes are, and how to use the new system.
What's the Deal with the Medicare Website Updates?
Not only is the Plan Finder tool revamped, but you'll notice that the homepage is updated, and your clients will notice that the MyMedicare.gov consumer portal has been given a refresh.
These changes are part of the Trump Administration’s eMedicare initiative, which expands and improves on current Medicare consumer service options. This initiative was announced just before the 2018 AEP started, and the first changes are coming to fruition.
“Since day one, President Trump has been committed to strengthening the Medicare program—eMedicare puts his leadership into action by giving Medicare beneficiaries a simpler, more intuitive customer experience,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said (CMS).
The eMedicare initiative's goal is to modernize the online experience for patients, beneficiaries, and caregivers. There will even be a new webchat option in the Medicare Plan Finder tool.
You might've noticed a few months ago that Medicare released the "What's covered" app – that's also part of this initiative.
Man, if only Congress could get this much work done! Just kidding.
Big Changes From Old Medicare Plan Finder to New Medicare Plan Finder
While the actual experience of doing a drug comparison seems to be less confusing, and it's more visually appealing, there are some big changes that are giving us some heartburn.
The first is the elephant in the room: no more Drug List ID.
In the old Medicare Plan Finder, you could jot down the Drug List ID and Password Date. This allowed us to come back to this step in the future without having to re-enter all of the prescriptions again.
And when you have a client with 25 meds... that was a big time saver.
With the new Medicare Plan Finder, that's gone.
The only way to access a previous list of medications going forward is for the individual to create a MyMedicare.gov account. See the screenshot below – "When logged in, you can access & store your drug list."
There is no way for an agent to copy those medications unless they go inside that individual's personal Medicare account, which is not advised.
If you need to extract old drug lists, make sure you do it before the end of September, which is presumably when the old system is shutting down – and taking the drug list information with it.
The second big change is the lack of plan sorting options.
In the new Medicare Plan Finder, you have 3 options for sorting Part D plan results:
- Lowest yearly drug deductible
- Lowest drug cost
- Lowest monthly premium
For whatever reason, the option to sort by "Lowest Remainder of the Year Retail Costs" is gone. We used to be able to quickly see which plan had the lowest total cost, but now... you have to do some math to get that answer.
And that can be quite frustrating.
The best way we've found to go about this is to sort by lowest drug cost and then add that total to the monthly premium.
You can compare up to 3 plans, so you can also select the Top 3 results when you sort by drug cost and then add those up quickly.
To help show your clients their options – and assist you with the small amount of math required – we've developed a 1-sheeter that's free to download.
This allows you to copy down the premium and yearly drug costs of the Top 5 plans and do the math right there for your client. Then, they can see their total annual costs for those plans and choose the plan they want.
The New Medicare Plan Finder Tool: How It Works
Through the end of September 2019, you'll have access to the old Plan Finder in addition to the new version. To access the new version, just click the link in the green bar at the top of your screen.
And when you do that, you'll be greeted with a surprisingly modern web page. For those us who have gotten used to the hectic, outdated design of the old Plan Finder... this is quite the breath of fresh air.
For the purposes of this tutorial, we'll click "Continue without logging in."
Next, we'll select "View plans. I know what type of plan I want." And for this walkthrough, we'll go forward with a Drug plan (Part D) comparison in our zip code.
When you enter your ZIP code, you'll be prompted to enter your Medicare number (not required just to view plans, but it is required to enroll), date of birth, and whether or not you get financial assistance.
Once you complete that information, you'll be asked if you want to see your drug costs when comparing plans. We'll select Yes, and we'll also say that we fill our prescriptions at Both retail and mail order pharmacies.
Then, you enter your drugs. We'll do some common drugs for this example.
When you're done entering drugs, you'll be prompted to select up to 2 pharmacies (just like before).
Finally, we see the available drug plans sorted by lowest monthly premium.
As we mentioned previously, we recommend sorting by Lowest drug costs, and then using that as a guide. The plans that appear on the first page are bound to be the most competitive, so simply add the yearly drug costs to the premium.
You will have to multiply the monthly premium by the remaining months in the year.
While these changes are a pain in the rear, it won't be long before we're all accustomed to them, and this will be old news.
To help you keep things organized, be sure to download the PDP Cheat Sheet and the 1-sheeter that helps you add up the costs of the Top 5 plans.