Medicare’s Annual Election Period Starts Next Week – October 15th

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The Annual Coordinated Election Period (ACEP), between October 15th and December 7th, is the time period during which Medicare beneficiaries can make coverage elections effective January 1st (this period is often referred to as the Open Enrollment period).

As discussed in previous Alerts here and here, advocates have been concerned about a number of factors affecting this ACEP, including an update to the Medicare Plan Finder (MPF), changes in marketing rules, and new policies taking effect in 2020 that can make it more challenging for consumers to weigh their options (such as new supplemental benefits available to some, but not all enrollees of MA plans, and new Medigap restrictions).

For assistance with exploring options during the ACEP, we encourage beneficiaries to contact their local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) – it may have a different name in your state. You can find your local SHIP program by calling 1-877-839-2675 or online online here.

Medicare Plan Finder (MPF) Updates

As discussed in the previous Alerts referenced above, and in various media reports, including a recent Kaiser Health News story, challenges with the new MPF remain – less than a week from the start of the ACEP.

In an email sent to partners on Monday October 7th, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) stated that they are continuing to work on improvements to the MPF and have added additional resources to their Plan Finder page on CMS’ National Training website. These new resources include new videos and an Updated Top Q&As.

Contrary to assertions made publicly and in a previous Q&A published on the same website (no longer available), the updated Q&A says that individual drug lists created outside of MyMedicare accounts will not be available, “[b]ecause the previous technology is proprietary.” (The previous Q&A stated “[w]e are working to extend access to any drug lists created in the old Plan Finder through the end of the 2019 Open Enrollment.”) People can still do anonymous drug searches, but they will not be able to save such searches unless they create a MyMedicare account.

The Updated Q&As also includes a “list of improvements that are still planned to be in place by the start of the Open Enrollment on October 15, 2019”:

  • Display drug tier costs
  • Link directly from to new Plan Finder
  • Integrate partial gap coverage into cost sharing
  • Adding Original Medicare info and card for comparison
  • Add sort option for total cost (plan premium + drug costs)
  • Add footnote for excluded drugs
  • Maintain filters and SNP selections when using back button
  • Add option to add mail order on pharmacy selection page
  • Refine the ZIP code entry process
  • Show distinction between preferred in-network versus in-network pharmacy on the Costs-by-Phase table
  • Add note about over-the-counter drugs to drug lookup page
  • Add option to compare a third retail pharmacy when mail order isn’t selected
  • Improve Print Format
  • Various backend technical updates to prepare for display of 2020 plans

CMS notes that feedback on the new Plan Finder can be emailed to

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