Should You Trust the Official Medicare Website?

Skeptical senior
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If you haven’t yet chosen a Medicare plan for 2020 — the deadline is this Saturday, Dec. 7 — beware of putting too much faith in the program’s official website.

If you have chosen a 2020 plan already, beware of assuming the plan details you received from the official Medicare website are accurate.

The information you find at Medicare.gov may be wrong, experts recently told AARP. And if you’re not careful, this suspect material could cause you to choose the wrong Medicare plan.

This issue follows the federal government overhauling Medicare.gov’s Plan Finder feature for the first time in a decade.

One of the problems that critics cite is that the website offers inconsistent drug prices for the same plan, and different versions of lists of drugs the plan is supposed to cover.

So, for example, one webpage for a given plan might show one price for a certain drug, while another webpage related to the same plan shows a different price.

Julie Carter, a senior federal policy associate at the nonprofit Medicare Rights Center, told AARP that prices listed at the website “just don’t seem to have anything to do with reality.”

She adds that her organization has noted “big swings between the different pages of the same plan.”

For its part, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — the federal agency that runs the Medicare program — maintains that there is no problem with the website. It says the issues that critics are citing “are not inaccuracies but rather user error or confusion.”

However, Carter says she hears complaints about the Medicare website that reach all the way down the chain to officials with State Health Insurance Programs (SHIPs). These programs offer free guidance to people who are eligible for Medicare, as we detail in “6 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare.”

Carter continues:

“The problem is we don’t know exactly how widespread the problem is. We have some significant concerns that people will be making decisions based on numbers that are not right.”

What it means for people on Medicare

The possibility of getting incorrect plan information from Medicare.gov makes it all the more important for Medicare recipients to take the time to confirm such details.

Advocates advise that Medicare recipients who have yet to enroll in a 2020 plan call the plans they are considering and ask for the plans’ prices and lists of drugs that the plans covers, AARP reports.

Medicare recipients who have already enrolled in a 2020 plan should call the plan they chose to confirm such information immediately because they can change plans up until Dec. 7. That’s when the fall Medicare open enrollment period ends.

Advocates also suggest that all Medicare recipients take screenshots or photos of the plan information displayed on Medicare.gov in case they later need proof that they received misinformation, AARP says.

Choosing the right Medicare plan

Selecting an appropriate Medicare plan is a high-stakes endeavor for the millions of Americans who rely on the federal health insurance program during retirement.

So, don’t take the process of choosing a plan lightly. Between now and Saturday, take time to read through Money Talks News’ latest Medicare coverage so you’ll be better equipped to make this big choice.

If you hear the clock ticking and just want to cut to the chase, check out “5 Medicare Mistakes to Avoid for a Healthy Retirement.” It offers tips to help you avoid making the biggest Medicare mistakes.

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