Starting in the Fall of 2017, the Center for Medicare Advocacy (the Center) and other advocacy organizations highlighted that, in a marked change from previous practice, the Trump Administration’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) outreach and enrollment materials promoted enrollment in private Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, while downplaying the drawbacks of such plans. At the same time, these materials – including revisions to recent editions of Medicare & You, online comparison tools (including the Medicare Plan Finder and associated materials), and education and outreach materials – tended to downplay (or in the case of some email campaigns, entirely leave out), the option of traditional/Original Medicare. Instead of objectively presenting enrollment options, some of this material went as far as encouraging beneficiaries to choose a private MA plan over traditional Medicare. (For a catalogue of such bias in Medicare materials in recent years, see the Addendum to this report, below.)
While there were some general improvements in the 2021 Medicare & You handbook, bias towards Medicare Advantage remained, and in some ways, was worse. Enrollment in MA plans was promoted at the same time that important restrictions and challenges faced when enrolling in MA plans were downplayed or omitted. Regrettably, when we had an opportunity to review the 2022 draft – along with a number of other stakeholders – we found that much of this bias remained.
CMS recently posted the final Medicare & You 2022 Handbook on their website. We reviewed the new handbook with an eye toward assessing the balance of information provided about traditional Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage, and the accuracy of information regarding coverage. We are pleased to report that while there is still work to do, the new Handbook makes important strides towards reversing the bias in favor of MA that was prevalent in recent editions. In this report, we examine the improvements, and highlight where more attention is needed.
- Read the details in our full report at: https://medicareadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Medicare-You-2022.pdf
September 20, 2021 – D. Lipschutz