Four Ways Medicare Forms are Easier to Understand Now

Ernie Shannon's picture
Medicare forms
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Medicare policies, procedures, indexes, and glossaries tend to lead people into the equivalent of a maze in a cornfield. Decades of rulemaking associated with an ever more complex health care system can tie people in knots determining coverage, eligibility, and costs.

In an effort to simplify an otherwise bureaucratic federal program in which millions of Americans participate, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is announcing a redesign of the statement that informs Medicare beneficiaries regarding their claims for services and benefits. The reconfigured statement, known as the Medicare Summary Notice, will be available online and, starting in 2013, mailed quarterly to recipients.

“Consumer protection starts with making sure consumers not only get timely and accurate information, but that they understand what services they’re receiving from Medicare,” said Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “The new Medicare Summary Notice empowers Medicare’s seniors and people with disabilities.”

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According to Tavenner, the redesign of the summary was no easy task. More than 18 months of cutting and trimming were needed before the summary measured up to expectations. The initiative is part of a larger mission to make Medicare information clearer, more accessible, and easier to understand. It’s called, “Your Medicare Information: Clearer, Simpler, At Your Fingertips.” But this is not all. The agency says it will take additional steps this year to further root out the complexity of Medicare regulations. And many of the ideas came from beneficiaries themselves.

“This statement is easier to understand and navigate and makes clearer what information to check and how to report potential fraud,” Tavenner added. Going forward beneficiaries will have such features as:

a. A clear notice of how to check the form for important facts and potential fraud.
b. Clearer language, including consumer-friendly descriptions for medical procedures.
c. Definitions of all terms used in the form.
d. Larger fonts throughout to make it easier to read.

Today’s announcement marks the second significant change to Medicare records announced by the Department of Health and Human Services. Last month, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that a broader adoption of electronic health record technology would also make life easier for recipients of Medicare, physicians, and other providers. Implementation of electronic health record technology along with simpler beneficiary forms are both part of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in March 2010 and signed into law by President Obama.

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