CMS Launches New Compare Tool, Featuring All Eight Healthcare Tools in One Place

Lois’ mom moved to Northern Virginia last winter. Since she has been here, she has needed new doctors, a hospital for a surgical procedure, and a new physical therapist. Lois tried to be helpful in finding her mother names of providers using The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) compare tools, only to feel more confused and overwhelmed than she did before she began her search. She wished that there was one place, rather than eight, where she could go to find the information she needed. She chose to scrap her search and just use Google instead.

To meet the needs of today’s Medicare beneficiaries and improve the online Medicare customer experience, CMS combined and standardized their eight Compare tools, allowing users to access the same information through a single point of entry using simplified navigation. Using the new Care Compare tool, patients are able to easily find the information that is most important to help them make health care decisions. The agency announced the launch last Thursday and the new platform is currently up and running.

Information You Can Find Using CMS Care Compare Tool

The eight separate Compare tools on Medicare.gov in the past focused on hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, dialysis facilities, long-term care hospitals (LTCHs), in-patient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs), physician offices and hospice agencies. Now, you can conduct all of these searches in one place, enabling users to start finding any type of care they need with ease.

Previously, if you were planning to have bypass surgery, you would have needed to visit Hospital Compare, Nursing Home Compare, and Home Health Compare individually to research providers for the different phases of your surgery and rehabilitation. Now, you can simply use Care Compare to find and compare providers that meet your health care needs, including information about quality measures presented similarly and clearly across all provider types and care settings.

New features of Care Compare include updated maps, new filters that help you identify the providers right for you, and a clean, consistent design that makes it easier to compare providers and find the information that’s most important to you.

What Can This Tool Do for Me?

For people with Medicare or their caregivers who want to choose a Medicare provider (such as physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, and others), the Care Compare tool provides a single source search and compare experience, that lets you:

  • Find information about providers and facilities based on your individual needs.
  • Get helpful resources to choose your health care providers.
  • Make more informed decisions about where you get your health care.
  • Get hints for finding certain services or providers that you need. For example, when searching for a nursing home, patients have the ability to utilize a checklist with common questions and considerations when selecting a nursing home. While the measures and data used for Care Compare have not changed, the way information is displayed is now different.
  • Get a better idea of your out-of-pocket costs. Several improvements have been made to the Procedure Price Lookup tool, including adding physician fees in addition to administration fees.
  • Analyze agency data more easily. The Provider Data Catalog also creates an improved application programming interface to hopefully enable researchers to analyze agency data more easily.

Looking for the original compare tools?

Miss the old compare functionality with the eight separate tools? If you’re looking for the original individual compare tools, you can still find them on Medicare.gov. Seema Verma, CMS Administrator, said that the existing compare websites will remain live for now as patients transition to the new site.

Look Beyond the Care Compare Tool When Searching for a Healthcare Provider

CMS cautions that the information that can be found on Care Compare should be used with other information you gather about providers and facilities in your area. In addition to reviewing the information on their platform, you should talk to your doctor, social worker, or other health care providers when choosing a provider.

What Seniors Should Look for in a Healthcare Provider

As you reach your mid-60s and beyond, you need a primary health provider who’s attuned to changes in your body, mind, and life. As CMS understands, tools such as the Care Compare tool, are helpful, but can’t give you everything you need to make the best decision in finding a provider that is right for you. These are some tips you can use when looking for a healthcare provider:

  • Find someone who listens: Try to find someone who talks to you and listens to what you have to say. Good listening ability is the first personality trait to look for in a good provider.
  • A reliable practice: Talk to friends and neighbors. Look at Google reviews. Go on Next Door and Facebook, or simply ask people you know which practices in your community are accepting new patients. Inquire about the various Medicare plans. And ask whether you can reach someone when the office is closed. After-hours availability can help prevent hospitalizations.
  • Comfort level: You should feel comfortable when you step into the waiting room. A welcoming atmosphere sets the tone. Also, make sure you don’t feel rushed. You want a doctor who doesn’t make you feel like they only have 10 minutes to spend with you.
  • Evidence-based treatment: It’s best to find clinicians who show a lot of caution before putting an older person on a medication, before sending him or her off to a specialist, before doing tests, and before putting him or her into the hospital.
  • Age-appropriate testing: Too-low levels of vitamin D, thyroid hormone, and other deficiencies that affect bone health, the nervous system, and various bodily functions tend to increase with age. Find a doctor who monitors these levels with blood tests and staff that figures out how to get testing covered by insurance so patients aren’t stuck paying out of pocket.
  • Quality of life: Care of older adults goes beyond the boundaries of the office visit. It includes probing for signs of isolation or loneliness that so many seniors experience. Find a doctor who cares and focuses on a patient’s quality of life.
  • Dignity and respect: If your loved one has memory loss, find a doctor who communicates well with people who have memory loss or dementia. Whether they’re cognitively impaired or not, practitioners need to look the patient in the eye and speak to them as if they’re the only one in the room. Most people with dementia can still answer many questions and provide important feedback for clinicians.

Planning for Long-term Care

Hope the new Care Compare site (or the old NH Compare site if you’re just looking for nursing homes) and the tips provided help you and your loved ones find the best provider(s) available. Remember, if you have a loved one who will need long-term care in the not so distant future, the time to plan is now. Medicaid Asset Protection Planning can be started while your loved one is still able to make legal and financial decisions, or can be initiated by an adult child acting as agent under a properly-drafted Power of Attorney, even if your loved one is already in a nursing home or receiving other long-term care.

Often, the earlier someone plans for long-term care needs, the better. But, fortunately, it is never too late to begin Medicaid planning, especially for married couples. If you haven’t done so already. Please call us to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

Elder Law Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Law Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Law Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Law DC: 202-587-2797

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