CMS Compare sites lack relevant cost and quality information, GAO report says

The Medicare enrollment process is daunting enough as it is. Now two new reports highlight ways the government is making it even harder for seniors to get information about their benefits--and the consequences to beneficiaries. 

First, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' suite of price transparency sites, including HospitalCompare and PhysicianCompare, "lack relevant information on cost and provide limited information on key differences in quality of care, which hinders consumers' ability to make meaningful distinctions among providers based on their performance," according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

For consumers visiting these sites, most deal with a confusing layout, data gaps and lack of customized information, notes the GAO. No fixes are on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Medicare beneficiaries who lack necessary information about enrollment periods and rules could face a lifetime of late-enrollment penalties, higher healthcare costs and gaps in coverage, according to a new report from New York-based nonprofit group, the Medicare Rights Center (Medicare Rights).

Medicare Rights notes that, based on calls to its help lines, three of the main factors that contribute to delayed enrollment are navigating coordination of benefits rules, understanding enrollment periods and affording late enrollment penalties. 

Medicare Rights recommends the government agencies and payers help newly-eligible beneficiaries by:

  • establishing a more in-depth notification system for people approaching Medicare eligibility.
  • simplifying both the initial and general enrollment periods to ensure coverage begins immediately.
  • improve access to equitable relief and make Special Enrollment Periods more readily available to help those who make honest mistakes.
  • sponsoring more research--such as GAO reports--on Part B enrollment periods and penalties.

For more:
- here's the GAO report
- here's the Medicare Rights report (.pdf)