Glitch in Medicare drug plan finder could cost consumers

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FILE – In this Nov. 8, 2018, file photo, the U.S. Medicare Handbook is photographed, in Washington. A new study finds that more than half of seriously ill Medicare enrollees _ 53% _ struggle to pay their medical bills. Prescription drugs are the leading problem. The researchers who wrote Monday’s report in the journal Health Affairs were surprised by their findings, since Medicare is considered relatively good coverage. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) – A glitch in Medicare’s revamped prescription plan finder can steer unwitting seniors to coverage that costs much more than they need to pay.

People who help with sign-ups and program experts say it can be confusing – and costly – if consumers aren’t careful.

Serving some 60 million Medicare recipients, the plan finder is the most commonly used tool on Medicare.gov and just got its first major update in a decade.

The online system automatically displays the plan with the lowest premium.

But because of out-of-pocket costs like copays, that’s not necessarily the least expensive plan. The difference can amount to hundreds of dollars.

Medicare says it chose to display the premium prominently because it’s a number that consumers understand.

Sign-up season for Medicare prescription drug plans ends Dec. 7.

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