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At the beginning of the current session of Congress, the Center for Medicare Advocacy laid out a Medicare Platform for the New Congress to guide improvements to Medicare and possible expansion of the Medicare-covered population. One of the core considerations to improve Medicare for all beneficiaries, now and in the future, is the need to preserve and expand consumer protections and quality coverage for all Medicare Beneficiaries – including parity between traditional Medicare and private Medicare Advantage (MA) plans.

Included in the Center’s Medicare Platform is the goal to simplify enrollment in traditional Medicare, Part D and Medigap, and ease transitions from other insurances to Medicare. As we approach this year’s Annual Coordinated Election Period (ACEP), often referred to as “Open Enrollment”, the Medicare program is rolling out a new Medicare Plan Finder (MPF), the primary online tool people use to explore their coverage options. As discussed in last week’s CMA Alert, beneficiary advocates and other assisters are testing the new tool. There are already concerns with the new MPF, including the timing of the roll out, along with the lack of a back-up site once the ACEP begins. Other factors that could impact consumer decision-making and enrollment during the ACEP remain unresolved. As the Center has noted elsewhere, it is unclear to what extent CMS will continue its recent biased information with respect to Medicare coverage options by actively promoting enrollment in Medicare Advantage.

An additional core consideration in our Medicare Platform is to improve consumer protections in Medicare Advantage, including strengthening marketing protections. Such protections have recently taken a significant step backward due to CMS’s release of updated 2020 marketing guidelines. As we have noted, these changes appear to have been made solely for the benefit of insurance plans and those selling their products. At this moment, the goals outlined in our Medicare Platform face increasing challenges.

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