Medicare Apps – Are They Worth Using?

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) established the eMedicare initiative in 2018. According to the CMS Administrator Seema Verma, the eMedicare initiative’s purpose is to modernize Medicare so that its beneficiaries can make the most of their coverage. Medicare is putting technology to work for enrollees to make it easier to manage your benefits.

As part of the eMedicare initiative, CMS has developed two new Medicare apps that you may want to consider using. The first is Medicare’s What’s Covered app, which is a simplified version of Medicare’s website. The second app is Medicare’s iBlueButton app. iBlueButton is more complex, but it can be extremely beneficial for several reasons.

What’s Covered app

There are nearly 1.3 million pageviews each month for Medicare coverage-related articles on Medicare.gov. Due to the high volume of coverage inquiries, CMS thought an app dedicated to answering coverage questions would make it easier for beneficiaries to find the information they need. What’s Covered is an easy-to-use app that allows you to search nearly any medical service to see whether Medicare covers it, how Medicare covers it, and any additional details about the coverage.

Pros and cons of the What’s Covered app

When you first open the app, you’ll see a search box as the home screen. Here, you can either complete a search, browse all items and services, or access the main menu. If you search a general medical service, such as “biopsy,” you may find several results for conditions requiring biopsies, such as a cervical cancer screening. If you search a more targeted term, such as “wheelchair,” the exact item should populate the results. Note that results that have “apply” next to them are considered covered preventive services. 

One of the cons of this app is that users say it’s hard to find exactly what they’re looking for in the search results. However, this is because it’s often hard for Medicare to tell you exactly how it will cover such a general service.  Often, Medicare needs more detailed information to provide accurate coverage information

Some users claim the coverage information provided in the app is too vague. Users want the app to tell them exactly how much their bill will be for each service they search. But again, it’s nearly impossible for the app to know your exact costs because they vary by location, provider, diagnosis, and plan.

There are some definite advantages to using this app, as well. Because the app tells you how Medicare typically covers something, you can use it at the doctor’s office before the doctor performs a service. That way, you can decline any service that the app says might not be covered. Remember, though, that the app contains general information that may not apply to your specific situation. If you’re not sure, talk to your provider’s billing department. just because the app says it isn’t covered, doesn’t mean there aren’t any loopholes for people in your situation. 

iBlueButton app

The iBlueButton app isn’t as well known as the What’s Covered app, but it should definitely be on your radar. This app is like having your entire medical history in your back pocket. With this app and your MyMedicare account, you can transfer all of your claims history, medical notes, medication information, and more to your smartphone.

Pros and cons of the iBlueButton app

In addition to storing all your important medical information, the iBlueButton app allows you to share your medical records with whomever you wish. For example, if you are at your first appointment with your new primary care physician, you can instantly send him your past medical records straight from your phone. No more calling around to all your doctors to get them to email or fax over records. 

Another pro to this Medicare app is that you can store all of your medication notes directly on your phone, including   drug names, dosages, side effects, start dates, and more. You can also add information about your medical conditions, immunizations, and allergies You can even have multiple profiles to store both your and your spouse’s medical records on one device. 

Usability and security are two potential disadvantages to this app. In December of 2019, CMS reported a known glitch in the Blue Button 2.0 app. There were 30 users impacted by this and the agency says they have patched the faulty code and added additional protection for users. Additionally, because of how advanced it is, there may be a learning curve to using the app.

Ultimately, many users think these apps are helpful, but it all comes down to personal preference. Consider downloading each one and taking them for a spin to see if you could see yourself using them in the future.