Earlier this month, the Medicare Rights Center and the Center for Medicare Advocacy sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expressing concerns with some of the agency’s Fall Open Enrollment education and outreach materials. These materials seem to promote Medicare Advantage (MA) over Original Medicare.
Also known as the Annual Coordinated Election Period (ACEP), Fall Open Enrollment occurs each year from October 15 through December 7. During this period, people with Medicare can make unrestricted changes to their coverage options for the following year, including joining a new Medicare Advantage (MA) or Part D plan and switching between Original Medicare and MA. People can make as many changes as they need, and the last change they make on or before December 7 will take effect on January 1.
Based on our experience assisting people with Medicare and their families, we know how challenging it can be for people to evaluate their coverage and make optimal decisions each year. This makes it critical that CMS provide beneficiaries with accurate, complete information about their options in advance of and throughout this decision-making process.
Unfortunately, several of the agency’s 2018 enrollment resources fall short of this standard. Specifically, CMS recently announced a suite of online tools aimed at assisting consumer decision-making, including a Compare Coverage Options quiz. While we appreciate CMS’s efforts to develop more consumer-friendly materials, we are concerned that this tool may be doing more harm than good—by making overly-broad suggestions to enroll in MA when more nuance is required, and by failing to present individuals with the full array of Medicare coverage choices.
We are also similarly concerned that CMS’ current Fall Open Enrollment email campaign and other messaging to beneficiaries is improperly biased towards MA. Many of these communications make no attempt to inform beneficiaries about their coverage options under Original Medicare, potentially preventing them from making a fully-informed decision.
Although we are well into the 2018 Fall Open Enrollment period, CMS can still act to achieve greater parity in its materials in the remaining weeks when many people make their enrollment decisions. Accordingly, we are asking that CMS act quickly to revise both its online web tools and beneficiary outreach messages so they more equally and accurately reflect the availability of Original Medicare coverage options.
Throughout this open enrollment period and beyond, Medicare Rights will continue to work to ensure all CMS communications are balanced and objective regarding Original Medicare and MA. Regardless of the coverage they ultimately select, all people with Medicare deserve the opportunity to make an informed choice.