Breaking News
March 23, 2019 - Excess hormones could cause a condition that can lead to blindness in women, study finds
March 23, 2019 - Dramatic shifts in first-time opioid prescriptions bring hope, concern
March 23, 2019 - Antidepressant drugs may not work when neurons are out of shape
March 23, 2019 - TTUHSC El Paso to establish endowed chair in neurology through a major grant
March 23, 2019 - New device approved by FDA for treating patients with moderate-to-severe heart failure
March 23, 2019 - People with peripheral artery disease have lower Omega-3 Index, shows research
March 23, 2019 - Trigger warnings have minimal impact on how people respond to content, shows research
March 23, 2019 - Gilead Announces Data From Two Studies Supporting Further Development of GS-6207, a Novel, Investigational HIV-1 Capsid Inhibitor as a Component of Future Long-Acting HIV Therapies
March 23, 2019 - Selfish genetic elements amplify inflammation and age-related diseases
March 23, 2019 - Study provides new understanding of how the brain recovers from damage caused by stroke
March 23, 2019 - CRISPR/Cas libraries could revolutionize drug discovery
March 23, 2019 - Allergic reaction during pregnancy may alter sexual-development in offspring’s brain
March 23, 2019 - Seeing through a robot’s eyes helps those with profound motor impairments
March 23, 2019 - Recent research shows that ease of breastfeeding after C-section differs culturally
March 23, 2019 - Newly discovered parameters offer more control over efficient release of drugs
March 23, 2019 - ‘De-tabooing’ of abortion- Women would like more support from health care community
March 23, 2019 - Anti-TB drugs can increase susceptibility to Mtb reinfection
March 23, 2019 - New survey indicates need of attention to neglected tropical diseases
March 23, 2019 - Innovative in vitro method to develop easy-to-swallow medicine for children and older people
March 23, 2019 - Sugary drinks could raise risk of early deaths finds study
March 23, 2019 - Lian wins ENGINE grant for stem-cell-based therapy to treat Type 1 diabetes
March 23, 2019 - Overall, Physicians Are Happy and Enjoy Their Lives
March 23, 2019 - Researchers discover how blood vessels protect the brain during inflammation
March 23, 2019 - CDC study shows modest improvement in optimal hospital breastfeeding policy
March 23, 2019 - Family-based prevention program to reduce alcohol use among older teens
March 23, 2019 - Remote monitoring of implanted defibrillators in heart failure patients prevents hospitalizations
March 23, 2019 - Appropriate doffing of personal protective equipment may reduce healthcare worker contamination
March 23, 2019 - Window screens can suppress mosquito populations, reduce malaria in Tanzania
March 23, 2019 - Researchers discover new biomarker for postoperative liver dysfunction
March 23, 2019 - Pregnancy history may be linked to cognitive function in older women, finds study
March 23, 2019 - Study shows ticagrelor is equally safe and effective as clopidogrel after heart attack
March 23, 2019 - FDA Approves First Drug for Postpartum Depression, Zulresso (brexanolone)
March 23, 2019 - New guidelines outline new treatment management for psoriasis
March 23, 2019 - Thermally abused cooking oil may promote progression of breast cancer
March 23, 2019 - High-fructose corn syrup fuels growth of colon tumors in mice
March 23, 2019 - Partnership aims at establishing best practices to promote diversity in clinical trials
March 23, 2019 - New study examines presence of microbes in tap water from residences, office buildings
March 23, 2019 - Early life trauma may affect brain structure, contribute to major depressive disorder
March 23, 2019 - NIH starts clinical trial of drug to treat cravings associated with opioid use disorder
March 23, 2019 - Cervix bacteria, immune factors could be a warning signal of premature birth, reports new research
March 23, 2019 - Worst-ever emergency care performance figures underscore the need to focus on staffing
March 23, 2019 - The Current issue of “The view from here” is concerned with Cancer
March 23, 2019 - Mouse model validates how ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria affect acne
March 23, 2019 - Individual amygdala neurons respond to touch, imagery and sounds
March 23, 2019 - Combination of two topical creams can prevent cancer
March 23, 2019 - Study suggests depression screening when assessing African-Americans for schizophrenia
March 23, 2019 - New electronic support system for choosing drug treatment based on patient’s genotype
March 23, 2019 - First-of-its-kind study provides pregnancy statistics of imprisoned U.S. women
March 23, 2019 - Marinus Pharmaceuticals Initiates Phase 3 Study in Children with PCDH19-Related Epilepsy
March 23, 2019 - Laparoscopy: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
March 23, 2019 - Shellfish allergies: can they be treated?
March 23, 2019 - Toilet seat heart monitoring system
March 23, 2019 - Researchers identify way to improve common treatment for PTSD
March 23, 2019 - High potency cannabis use linked to psychosis finds study
March 23, 2019 - Evoke Pharma Submits Response to FDA Review Letter for Gimoti NDA
March 23, 2019 - Tracking HIV’s ever-evolving genome in effort to prioritize public health resources
March 23, 2019 - Scientists grow most sophisticated brain organoid to date
March 23, 2019 - ADHD drug raising risk of psychosis
March 22, 2019 - FDA approves brexanolone, first drug developed to treat postpartum depression
March 22, 2019 - Gruesome cat and dog experiments by the USDA exposed
March 22, 2019 - Ball pits used in children’s physical therapy may contribute to germ transmission
March 22, 2019 - Long-term use of inexpensive weight-loss drug may be safe and effective
March 22, 2019 - FDA Approves Sunosi (solriamfetol) for Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Associated with Narcolepsy or Obstructive Sleep Apnea
March 22, 2019 - Anti-Müllerian Hormone Test: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
March 22, 2019 - Finding the right exercise, diet aids for HIV patients
March 22, 2019 - Health Plans For State Employees Use Medicare’s Hammer On Hospital Bills
March 22, 2019 - Researchers develop new tool for imaging large groups of neurons in living animals
March 22, 2019 - Certain bacteria and immune factors in vagina may cause or protect against preterm birth
March 22, 2019 - Research identifies guidelines for prioritizing hepatitis C treatment in U.S. prisons
March 22, 2019 - Novel breath test could pave new way to non-invasively measure gut health
March 22, 2019 - Pharmaceutical and personal care products may result in new contaminants in waterways
March 22, 2019 - New model could revolutionize the way researchers investigate spread of pathogens
March 22, 2019 - MSU professor receives NSF CAREER grant for biosensor diagnostics
March 22, 2019 - High-fat, high-sugar diet in mouse mothers causes problems in the hearts of offspring
March 22, 2019 - ACC: Catheter Ablation Does Not Cut Mortality, Stroke in A-Fib
March 22, 2019 - Wiedemann-Rautenstrauch syndrome – Genetics Home Reference
March 22, 2019 - Health insurance is not assurance of healthcare
March 22, 2019 - Supporting “curiosity-driven research” at the Discovery Innovation Awards
March 22, 2019 - Must-Reads Of The Week (Some Flying Below The Radar)
March 22, 2019 - Newly engineered nanoscale protein micelles can be tracked by MRI
Is New App From Feds Your Answer To Navigating Medicare Coverage? Yes And No

Is New App From Feds Your Answer To Navigating Medicare Coverage? Yes And No

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print



Millennials, beware: Your grandparents are about to start calling you for help downloading the new Medicare smartphone app.
The iPhone and Android app, which launched Feb. 6, is called “What’s Covered,” and true to its name, it mostly answers one simple, yes-or-no question: Is this medical procedure covered by traditional Medicare?
Milt Roney, a 71-year-old retired government worker in a well-to-do suburb of Washington, D.C., agreed to check out the app with me, though he was skeptical from the outset.
“I wouldn’t use an app like that,” Roney said. “[My procedures are] going to be covered, and I’m not going to worry about it.”
Still, the app, available free from the Google Play and Apple App stores, is part of a broader Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services initiative, called eMedicare, to put more tools and information about Medicare online. (CMS declined a request for an interview.)
But much like the medicare.gov website, it doesn’t delve into individual beneficiaries’ specifics. It doesn’t ask what other coverage they might have, so it can’t take into account supplementary insurance, deductibles, coinsurance or other factors that determine cost.
“While usable and good for general information, it doesn’t provide personalized information that might be more helpful in making treatment or access decisions,” said Casey Schwarz, senior counsel for the Medicare Rights Center, a nonprofit organization.
Milt’s wife, Lisa Roney, 70, joined him to participate in my own “expert panel,” to download the app and try it out.
It’s worth noting that these experts were my backup plan. The first couple I approached told me they’d love to help, but they had “dumb phones” and couldn’t download anything.
This highlights perhaps a more fundamental problem. Many people of Medicare age don’t have a smartphone, and aren’t familiar with apps or comfortable manipulating screens.
According to a report from AARP, 46 percent of people in their 60s do not have smartphones. Only 29 percent of the 70-and-older crowd do. The report suggests that the trend will tick upward, with more older Americans owning mobile technology each year.
The Roneys both have Medicare Parts A and B, which cover hospitalizations and doctor visits. They both have smartphones. As retired government workers, they also have insurance from GEHA, the Government Employees Health Association, which covers their dental care, prescription drugs and some other expenses. Milt Roney gets some money from GEHA to hand out brochures at health fairs.
They consider themselves pretty tech-savvy. They have iPads, personal computers and iPhones. Lisa Roney wears a Fitbit.
But they immediately questioned the necessity of the app.
“I’d just pick up the phone and call if I had a question about what was covered,” Milt Roney said.
“I’d probably just look it up in the [Medicare] book,” Lisa Roney said, pulling the 2-inch manual from a drawer in her office.
Then came the first hurdle: downloading the app.
Searching “Medicare” in the Google app store, which is where Android users go, yielded many results. “What’s Covered” was first on the list, but it’s far from the only Medicare-related app on the platform. Same experience in the Apple app store, where it took the Roneys a few minutes to sort out exactly which one was the CMS tool. (It’s the one that says “Official Medicare coverage app,” made by the “Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.”)
Having completed this part of the process, we moved on.
Opening the app immediately gave each of us a search bar to type in a product or service. (I was experimenting, too, though still 40 years shy of Medicare eligibility.) There’s also an option to browse all items and services to see what is covered.
A note to readers: I wouldn’t recommend telling your friends you have a fun new game on your phone and then ask them to call out medical procedures to see if they’re covered by Medicare. I can say from experience, it will not make you the most popular 20-something at brunch.
The Roneys’ next challenge: figuring out the “search” function.
Lisa Roney typed in “dexa scan,” a test her doctor recommended she, like many women her age, undergo to check for osteoporosis.
It yielded no results. To find it, Lisa had to browse through the list of covered procedures and go to “bone mass measurements.” There, she found out that Part B covers such tests once every two years, but nowhere in the information did the word “dexa scan” — the term her doctor used — appear.
Along the way, she checked her coverage manual and found no additional information. And, in the time it took her to go through these steps, her husband, Milt, got fed up and just Googled it. He found the answer immediately.
Such problems with search specificity may be common. One reviewer on the Apple Store lodged a similar complaint.
“You have to know the correct terms or browse the entire alphabetical index and select likely candidates,” the user wrote. “For instance ‘knee brace’ comes up with nothing (you have to know to search for generic term ‘brace’).”
Ultimately, the app is just another way for beneficiaries, their families and providers to find the same information available on the website and printed in the old-fashioned paper manual they receive by mail. It even uses the same fonts and little apple icons that denote which procedures count as “preventive.”
Schwarz, from the Medicare Rights Center, said a lot of beneficiaries will use the electronic resources to figure out coverage, but they also get help from social workers, volunteers at nonprofits and family members in their research. The app might help those people access information when they don’t want to use the mobile medicare.gov site, which Schwarz called “not particularly great.”
There is also no information about how to choose a prescription drug plan, or other supplemental insurance like Medicare Advantage or Medigap plans, which are the real and complicated decisions beneficiaries must contend with. But those decisions require more personal information, which the app can’t support right now.
It’s also important to remember, Schwarz said, that Medicare doesn’t cover only seniors. People of all ages with disabilities also rely on Medicare for health coverage, and they might find the app easier to use than the traditional website.
The Roneys were unimpressed.
“I’m probably going to delete it right after you leave,” Lisa Roney concluded.
Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

About author

Related Articles