Medicare Plan Finder is Broken

The Medicare Plan Finder for 2020 is hopelessly broken. CMS decided it was time for an overhaul. Make the Plan Finder more user friendly.

The Medicare brain trust says that 70% of seniors are tech savvy. Sure, they may be able to check email, watch videos of the grandchildren on Facebook and even order from Amazon.

But how many TRULY understand Part D and can find a drug plan without help?

Crickets . . .

Medicare Plan Finder is Broken

How Does the Plan Finder Work?

Let’s look at what CMS did to the “new, improved Medicare drug plan finder.

To use the new Medicare Plan Finder you should establish an account.

  • login using MyMedicare username & password
  • Change password every 2 years (formerly every 60 days)
  • Must be different from previous 6 password’s – can you remember password from 12 years ago?
  • Can’t contain username, SSN or Medicare number
  • Volunteers and agents prohibited from storing your login information
  • Do NOT share your login and password with anyone you do not know or trust
  • Anyone who has your login info can see claims, Rx complete 3 yr history, name, address and Medicare number

What could possibly go wrong?

How do you like it so far?

Medicare Drug Plan Finder

But Wait – There’s More

Drug history automatically imports from MyMedicare when you are logged in

  • Imports drugs on file with medicare.gov
  • Does not include paid by cash 
  • Generic pricing may not be accurate or useful
  • You are unable to view preferred pharmacy pricing
  • If you forget your login must remember answers to security questions
  • Cannot create an account without a Medicare number – New to Medicare? You won’t have your number.
  • The folks at 800 Medicare use the same plan finder.
  • They can’t help you either . . .

We have seen this movie before.

Remember Obamacare and Healthcare.gov?

When healthcare.gov rolled out DC had been working on it for 5 years.

It was virtually useless, had MAJOR security flaws, and impossible to navigate unless you were trained.

There were approximately 20 million people seeking information on plan options. Contrast that with over 50 million who will be using the site during a 9 week period.

What could possibly go wrong?

Hackers Paradise

Healthcare.gov was miserably broken out of the gate and was “closed” for several hours at a time while they tried to patch it.

As recently as 2018 healthcare.gov was hacked, again, exposing private data on 75,000 people.

It has been hacked NUMEROUS times since it went public.

Surely you can’t be serious?

I am serious and don’t call me Shirley . . .

Is there any reason to believe the Plan Finder and Blue Button will be any better?

The new Medicare Plan Finder has so many flaws that I don’t feel safe making plan choice suggestions for my clients. Instead, I will be referring all clients to an agency that will handle this for me.



Your Medicare Questions Answered

Your Medicare questions answered by GA Medicare expert Bob Vineyard. Where do you go for answers? Why does no one want to help until you BUY something? Can anyone help?

How about the Georgia SHIP staffed by volunteers? Or calling Medicare direct? Who has all the answers when you want to know who has the best Medigap plan? Is there a Medicare for Dummies, or Medicare 101 site?

Medicare questions answered

Where is the best place to find answers to ALL my questions without getting a SALES PITCH?

Medicare Questions Answered

Why Search the Web When All Your Answers are Here?

Georgia Medicare expert Bob Vineyard spends hours every day searching so you don’t have to. Don’t you have something better to do with your time?

Even after working in health insurance for over 45 years Bob still is learning new things. He spends times reading information on Medicare, health and senior fitness so you don’t have to. Bob also participates in several consumer forums, answering the tough questions.

Bob is dedicated to helping YOU understand how Medicare works. He also makes sure you find the right plan that fits YOUR needs and budget.

Welcome to the NO SELLING ZONE!

Your Medicare Questions Answered by Volunteers

Why not talk to a SHIP counselor? They aren’t selling ANYTHING. It’s a non-profit organization. What could be wrong with that?

Counselors are volunteers with limited training. Kind of a Medicare 101 crash course for dummies. It would be rare to find someone who has had years of experience working with Medicare beneficiaries and insurance carriers.

The belief by some is, because they are volunteers working for a taxpayer funded, non-profit organization, their advice must be unbiased. Your Medicare questions answered by someone who truly wants to help . . . and that is true.

Motivation to help is good, but how accurate and useful is that advice? Will you have a counselor dedicated to help you . . . or will you be handed off to the first available person? Is personal service meaningful to you, or are you willing to accept advice from just anyone?

Going to the Source

Call 1-800-MEDICARE 24/7 except federal holidays. Operators are standing by . . . and most of them speak English.

When you ask questions about Medicare their computer “listens” to the conversation and an answer pops up on the rep’s screen. They will read the answer to you and assume you understand.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is great but it is no substitute for the real thing. Remember HAL 9000 from Space Odyssey. “I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that”.

While 800-MEDICARE is good, just like volunteer organizations, they don’t understand the insurance side of Medicare.

Medicare is easy.

Insurance is hard.

One Source for Answers to Your Medicare Questions.

Bob makes life simple. He explains how Medicare works using words that you understand.

For example. Many folks get confused about Medicare supplement and Medigap. What are they? How are they different.

Bob’s answer is this.

Medicare supplement and Medigap are interchangeable terms. Like Kleenex and tissue.

How easy is that?

Where can you get your Medicare questions answered?

Call or email. Give us 10 minutes. Ask any question. Never any pressure to buy. You decide if the information is helpful or not. No selling ever!

This is my offer you can’t refuse.

Will Medicare Pay For Shingles Vaccine?

Does Medicare cover shingles vaccine? Will my Medigap plan pay for Shingrix? Can I get the shot for free during my Medicare Annual Exam?

GA Medicare expert Bob Vineyard answers your immunization questions.

Does Medicare Pay for Shingles Vaccine
Will Medicare Pay for Shingles Vaccine?

What is Shingles?

Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The same virus that causes chicken pox is also responsible for shingles.

After having chicken pox, the virus can lay dormant in your body for years. The virus lives in your nervous system near your spinal cord.

According to Mayo Clinic:

The signs and symptoms of shingles usually affect only a small section of one side of your body. These signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • A red rash that begins a few days after the pain
  • Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
  • Itching
Will Medicare Pay for Shingrix?

What is the Shingles Vaccine and How Does it Work?

Most vaccines start with some form of the virus which is injected. The idea is your body will detect the intruder and generate anti-bodies to attack the virus.

Older vaccines such as Zostavax use a weakened form of the virus. Shingrix, approved in 2017, uses inactivated (dead) virus. Vaccines containing dead virus cells eliminates the risk of transmission.

Is Shingrix Better than Zostavax?

Currently there are only three approved shingles vaccines. Zostavax, Shingrix and Varivax.

Zostavax, approved in 2006, was the only vaccine for shingles for many years.

Shingrix gained approval as a vaccine in 2017 and is considered to be 97% effective in adults age 50 to 69. Whereas Zostavax has a 50% effectiveness rate.

Varivax was approved in 2018. It is similar in price and effectiveness to Shingrix.

All three named shingles vaccines are approved by Medicare and should be included in all Medicare Part D plans.

How Much Does the Vaccine Cost?

Cash prices for Shingrix are currently $150 per dose. You need two doses for maximum effectiveness. Your second does should be given at least 2 months but no more than 6 months following your first dose.

Zostavax is a single dose immunization with a cash price of $225.

The cash price for Varivax is $150 per dose. The manufacturer recommends two doses a month apart.

How Long Before I Need to be Vaccinated Again?

Shingles vaccinations should remain effective for several years before you need another vaccination.

You can get Shingrix at age 50, when your chance of having shingles rises. Studies have shown that its protection remains strong for at least 4 years, but researchers hope it will last much longer because the immune response is stronger. – WebMD

Is the Shingles Vaccine Covered by Medicare?

Medicare covers the shingles vaccine as one of its preventive benefits. But, unlike some other vaccines that are paid through Part B, the shingles vaccine is covered by Part D.

Have You Had Shingles?

If you have chicken pox as a child? If you did you have a one in three chance of getting shingles as an adult.

Two years ago during my annual Medicare wellness visit my doctor asked if I wanted to get the shingles vaccination. We discussed the pro’s and con’s. She wrote a prescription for Shingrix.

I had every intention of getting the shot but all the local pharmacy’s were out of stock. They had no idea when they would have it in stock.

Two months later I woke up with intense itching and moderate pain. It started near my kidney and radiated around my left side.

My wife looked at it and said I had the Shingles.

Welcome to old age.

This was a weekend and my regular doctor was not available. On Sunday I went to a nearby urgent care facility. The doctor confirmed I had shingles.

I was given a prescription for the generic form of Valtrex.

Valacyclovir (Valtrex) is an antiviral medicine. It is used to treat or prevent infections caused by certain kinds of viruses. Examples of these infections include herpes and shingles.This medicine will not cure herpes. It is more popular than comparable drugs. It is available in generic and brand versions. Generic valacyclovir is covered by most Medicare and insurance plans, but some pharmacy coupons or cash prices may be lower. –GoodRx

Using Part D the prescription would have cost nearly $50. Using the coupon and paying cash my cost was $9.

Pay Cash or Use Your Drug Plan?

If you use your Medicare Part D plan for generic drugs you will almost always pay more. Buying generics and paying cash will normally save money.

The approved Shingles vaccines are all brand names. There are no generics. But you may still save money using coupons or drug assistance programs. Check the Medicare site for Patient Assistance Programs.

Do you have Medicare questions? Call or email.

#ShinglesVaccine #Shingrix #GAMedicareExpert

My Medicare Rates Are High!

My Medicare rates are high! Do Medigap rates increase as I get older? Can I change my plan during Open Enrollment? Where can I find Medicare supplement rate increase history?

The plan was competitive when I bought it but now it is almost double. I don’t know how much longer I can afford it.

Why are my Medicare rates so high?

There is a good explanation for high Medigap renewal rates. You probably don’t want to hear it, and you probably don’t care why.

But you would like some relief.

Help is on the way. As long as you are healthy . . .

Why are my Medicare Rates so High?

Where Can I Find Medicare Rate History?

What you want is not easy to find. Even when you do find it you will discover the rate information is useless.

Most likely, your Medicare rates are high because your carrier left the market. It is rare for a Medigap carrier to stay in the same market for more than 3 or 4 years.

Once they leave a new carrier comes in to replace them. The new carrier has lower rates. The departing carrier is now free to raise renewal rates with impunity.

Since 2010 Omaha has introduced 4 Medigap carriers to Georgia and retired three of them. Each time a carrier is shelved the rates start to climb.

In that same time frame Aetna has also had at least 4 subsidiaries leave the market. They introduced a 5th new carrier earlier in 2019.

If your Medicare rates are high it is most likely because the issuing carrier is no longer writing new business in your state.

Maybe You Picked the Wrong Plan

Medicare supplement plan F has been heavily marketed as the “go to” plan for many years. Carriers and agents love the high premiums because it means more money for them.

If your Medicare rates are high you should have bought the G plan. But it is not too late to switch.

Unless you are unhealthy.

Then you are screwed.

Renewal Rates Higher Than Current Rates

When you get your renewal and start to look around you might discover that your Medicare rates are higher than new business rates from the same carrier.

I see that quite often but especially for carriers with closed blocks of business.

OLD business is charged a higher rate which subsidizes lower rates for new policyholders.

I call this the cable TV syndrome.

Last year you signed on as a new customer. You got 150 channels for $39 per month.

This month you get your renewal bill and now you are expected to pay $109 for those same channels.

But your cable company is still offering 150 channels for $39.

What gives???

So you call your cable company to complain. You are told the $39 rate is only for NEW CUSTOMERS.

Medicare insurance carries pull the same tricks.

How Do I Find Affordable Medigap Rates?

Great question.

There are no easy answers. Here are a few tips.

  • Look for carriers that have been active in GA for 5 or more years
  • Don’t buy from someone that has been here less than 2 years
  • Don’t chase the low rate
  • Ask friends and relatives for an AGENT referral

Bob Vineyard is a GA Medicare expert with more than 45 years experience. Bob is also on Medicare.

Are your Medicare rates high?

Here is my offer. Give me 10 minutes on the phone. Call and ask ANY Medicare questions. If you don’t like my answer we part as friends. After all, it isn’t personal, just business.

But if you do like what you hear we move forward on your timetable. Allow me an opportunity to EARN your business.

I call this an “offer you can’t refuse”.

Full Medicare supplement rate reports for any plan. Just ask.

How easy is that?

Going on Medicare Age 65

Going on Medicare at age 65. Can I sign up online? What if I am still working? When is the best time to enroll? How much does Medicare cost? Where can I get help?

Going on Medicare Age 65
Age 65 – Enroll in Medicare

If you are turning 65 you have a lot of going on Medicare questions. You will have a lot of people sending you information by mail, each piece claiming their plan is better. And your phone will ring off the hook. With people calling to SELL you something you don’t want, you don’t need and can’t afford.

Where do you turn?

Consider talking to a Georgia Medicare Expert.

Ready for Medicare?

When you are ready to sign up for Medicare the process is fairly easy. You can go online to sign up. Or maybe you would rather do it by phone. Another way is to visit your local Social Security office.

You can enroll in Medicare Part A and/or Medicare Part B online at www.SocialSecurity.gov. By calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 Monday through Friday, from 7AM to 7PM. Or In person at your local Social Security office.

How easy is that?

Where Can I Learn About Medicare?

You can waste a lot of time searching for Medicare information online. But it seems so easy. You just Google “How to go on Medicare”. Or “Where do I sign up for Medicare”. If you know how to enroll then you ask “Who has the BEST Medicare rates“.

Turning 65 – Enroll in Medicare

Those steps will give you a lot of results. Some information is readily available.

But if you just want to know how much Medicare costs. You only want to see Medicare supplement rates WITHOUT talking to a pushy agent. That is a bit more challenging.

About to enroll in Medicare? Every time you fill in your name, email address and phone this is what happens. Almost immediately your phone rings. Someone calling to SELL you something when all you want is INFORMATION.

And your email box will be flooded with offers. Just click this link and all your questions will be answered.

By now you know this is NOT how you want to learn about going on Medicare.

You are like Charlie Brown asking “Why won’t someone just help me?“!

Medicare Help? Try This

Why search the web when all your going on Medicare questions can be answered here? Medigap rates. Advantage plan information. GA Medicare Expert Bob Vineyard can help.

When you are ready to sign up for Medicare, who would you rather talk to? A stranger on the phone whose last job was asking if you want fries with your meal? Or would you rather invest 10 minutes talking with someone who has over 45 years working in health insurance and is also on Medicare themselves?

You choose.

Here is my offer.

Give me a call. Invest 10 minutes by phone. Ask any question you want about Medicare. ANY question. Then you decide if my information is valuable or not.

If you like what you are getting, we move forward at your pace. If you don’t like what you hear, move on and we part as friends. It’s not personal, it’s just business.

I call this my offer you can’t refuse.

#GAMedicareExpert #GoingOnMedicare #Turning65