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Seniors beware: Newly designed Medicare Cost Finder may be giving you wrong insurance information

The federal government recently redesigned the $11 million Medicare tool, Medicare Cost Finder, which helps seniors compare complex health insurance options. However, ProPublica reports that consumer advocates are finding that the digital tool is malfunctioning and providing inaccurate cost estimates, creating confusion in some states during the open enrollment period.

Diane Omdahl, a Medicare consultant in Wisconsin, told ProPublica that she used the tool to research three prescription drug plans for a client. The comparison page said that all but one of her client’s medications would be covered. Omdahl clicked on “plan details” to find out which medicine was left out, but the plan finder then said all were covered.

After digging around, Omdahl discovered two versions of the same high blood pressure medication. One is covered and the other is not, but the difference in price is $2,700 a month. Selecting the wrong version can be an easy, and costly, mistake for the average user.

Nebraska even temporarily shut down a network of about 350 volunteer Medicare advisers for a day because miscalculations by Medicare Plan Finder were so worrisome and they couldn’t accurately narrow down the thousands of choices available nationwide without it.

EnvisionRxPlus, a prescription drug plan, sent an email to independent insurance brokers nationwide recommending that they not use the Medicare Plan Finder because of incorrect estimates on drug prices and patient deductibles.

Medicare advisers and advocates for seniors worry that the full extent of the tool’s inaccuracies will not be discovered until the 2020 coverage year begins and seniors head to pharmacies to fill their prescriptions. The danger is that selections made during open enrollment are irreversible for many Medicare participants.

“Millions of people are going to be absolutely affected,” said Ann Kayrish, senior program manager for Medicare at the National Council on Aging, in the article. “And you hate to think about millions of people having the wrong plan. That’s kind of crazy.”

Have you experienced errors and difficulty with the Medicare Cost Finder? Share your story with Voices for Affordable Health.