- CMS has revamped the eMedicare website, adding new tools to enhance the Medicare beneficiary experience when searching for a health plan.
These updates include tools aimed at making it easier for beneficiaries to understand plan details, out-of-pocket healthcare costs, and other key details beneficiaries consider before enrolling in a new health plan. CMS made these updates ahead of the 2019 open enrollment period in an effort to streamline the consumer experience and improve beneficiary satisfaction with Medicare.
Specifically, these updates include tools to compare different Medicare plans, cost calculators to assess patient financial responsibility with individual plans, and an online chat option to let consumers communicate with a Medicare administrator about different coverage options.
These tools build off of previous efforts to improve patient empowerment during the open enrollment process, but reportedly provide deeper plan information to help patients better understand the differences between options. For example, the plan comparison tool should help patients determine whether traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage is more advantageous for the patient’s unique health needs.
The new eMedicare website also has new log-in and interactive updates. For example, previous versions of the Medicare Plan Finder have asked beneficiaries to enter five pieces of identifying information to verify their log-in; the latest updates bypass that step and require only a unique username and password.
The eMedicare website will also be host to a new beneficiary surveying tool to help assess different beneficiary preferences that can shape further efforts to enhance the consumer experience.
These updates come as a part of the CMS efforts to put patients at the center of care and provide tools that improve their access to Medicare benefits, CMS administrator Seema Verma said in a statement.
“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,” Verma noted. “Our intent is not to replace traditional channels that beneficiaries trust and depend on, but to improve and enhance them with the emerging digital options to create a user-centered, seamless consumer experience.”
These updates build upon previous overhauls to the eMedicare website, CMS added.
CMS has already created tools to let beneficiaries print their Medicare cards online, improved email communication, and boosted its social media presence. Additionally, CMS has digitized much of its beneficiary-facing materials, including the Medicare Summary of Notice and the Medicare & You Handbook.
Previous updates also included a more streamlined Mymedicare.gov homepage and additions of consumer-facing Blue Button tools, allowing for better patient data access.
These efforts come as CMS works to improve consumer empowerment, both in the payer and provider space. In a July 2018 speech, Verma outlined the agency’s vision for a more empowered patient who is able to make more informed decisions about where to access her care.
“We will transform the individual patient into a consumer of healthcare – one that is empowered to shop for the provider that delivers the best care at the lowest price,” Verma asserted. “As the American patient is seeking care, they will seek providers that deliver innovative, transformative care, those that leverage the technological efficiencies that we have seen from other industries.”
To that end, CMS has made requirements for more consumer-centric price transparency platforms. Not only should better price transparency be a part of the health plan purchasing process, but also a part of the provider selection process, CMS has noted.
Driving more healthcare transparency and supporting consumer access to health information should foster a culture of competition between providers and payers, each of which should aim to improve care quality and coordination to drive better outcomes, Verma noted in her July speech.
“This administration is dedicated to putting patients first, to be empowered consumers of health care that have the information they need to be engaged and active decision-makers in their care,” Verma explained. “Through this empowerment, there will be a competitive advantage for providers that deliver coordinated, quality care, at the best value, to attract patients who are shopping for value.”