Millennials, watch out: Your grandparents are approximately to start calling you for assist downloading the new Medicare telephone app.

The iPhone and Android app, which released Feb. 6, is referred to as “What’s Covered,” and actual to its name, it in the main solutions one easy, sure-or-no doubt: Is this medical process covered by using conventional Medicare?

Milt Roney, a seventy one-yr-vintage retired authorities employee in a properly-to-do suburb of Washington, D.C., agreed to test out the app with me, even though he was skeptical from the outset.

“I wouldn’t use an app like that,” Roney said. “(My strategies are) going to be included, and I’m now not going to worry approximately it.”

Still, the app, available unfastened from the Google Play and Apple App stores, is part of a broader Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services initiative, known as eMedicare, to put more equipment and facts approximately Medicare online. (CMS declined a request for an interview.)

General data: But much like the medicare.Gov website, it doesn’t delve into individual beneficiaries’ specifics. It doesn’t ask what different coverage they could have, so it can’t take into account supplementary coverage, deductibles, coinsurance or different factors that decide cost.

“While usable and desirable for well-known records, it doesn’t provide personalized records that is probably more useful in making treatment or access choices,” stated Casey Schwarz, senior suggest for the Medicare Rights Center, a nonprofit organization.

Milt’s wife, Lisa Roney, 70, joined him to participate in my personal “expert panel,” to download the app and try it out.

It’s worth noting that those professionals were my backup plan. The first couple I approached told me they’d like to help, however, that they had “dumb phones” and couldn’t download something.

Using phones: This highlights perhaps more fundamental trouble. Many people of Medicare age don’t have a phone and aren’t familiar with apps or cozy manipulating monitors.

According to a document from AARP, 46 percent of people of their 60s do no longer have smartphones. Only 29 percent of the 70-and-older crowd do. The file shows that the fashion will tick upward, with extra older Americans proudly owning cell generation every 12 months.

The Roneys each have Medicare Parts A and B, which cover hospitalizations and physician visits. They each have smartphones. As retired authorities workers, additionally they have coverage from GEHA, the Government Employees Health Association, which covers their dental care, pharmaceuticals, and some other charges. Milt Roney gets some money from GEHA at hand out brochures at health festivals.

They keep in mind themselves quite tech-savvy. They have iPads, private computer systems, and iPhones. Lisa Roney wears a Fitbit.

But they immediately questioned the necessity of the app.

“I’d simply choose up the cellphone and contact if I had a query approximately what became blanketed,” Milt Roney said.

“I’d probably just appearance it up in the (Medicare) book,” Lisa Roney said, pulling the two-inch guide from a drawer in her workplace.

Finding the app: Then got here the first hurdle: downloading the app.

Searching “Medicare” inside the Google app shop, that’s where Android customers pass, yielded many results. “What’s Covered” changed into first on the list, but it’s far from the most effective Medicare-associated app at the platform. Same experience inside the Apple app save, in which it took the Roneys a few minutes to sort out exactly which one became the CMS device. (It’s the one that announces “Official Medicare coverage app,” made via the “Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.”)

Having completed this a part of the procedure, we moved on.

Opening the app straight away gave every people a search bar to kind in a service or product. (I became experimenting, too, though still forty years shy of Medicare eligibility.) There’s also a choice to browse all objects and services to see what is blanketed.

A note to readers: I wouldn’t advocate telling your pals you’ve got a laugh new game to your smartphone after which ask them to call out scientific techniques to look if they’re protected via Medicare. I can say from experience, it will no longer make you the most popular 20-something at brunch.

Search confusion: The Roneys’ next challenge: identifying the “search” function.

Lisa Roney typed in “dexa test,” a test her medical doctor advocated she, like many girls her age, undergo to check for osteoporosis.

It yielded no outcomes. To find it, Lisa needed to browse through the listing of covered tactics and go to “bone mass measurements.” There, she observed out that Part B covers such tests once every year, but nowhere inside the information did the word “dexa scan” — the term her doctor used — appear.

Along the way, she checked her insurance guide and determined no additional records. And, within the time it took her to go through these steps, her husband, Milt, was given bored stiff and just Googled it. He located the solution straight away.

Such issues with search specificity can be not unusual. One reviewer on the Apple Store lodged a comparable criticism.

“You should realize the best phrases or browse the entire alphabetical index and select probably applicants,” the user wrote. “For example ‘knee brace’ comes up with not anything (you need to know to search for frequent time period ‘brace’).”

Nothing new: Ultimately, the app is just every other way for beneficiaries, their households, and vendors to find the equal statistics to be had at the website and published within the old skool paper guide they get hold of through the mail. It even uses identical fonts and little apple icons that denote which processes the count number as “preventive.”

close up shot of medicaid card

Schwarz, from the Medicare Rights Center, said quite a few beneficiaries will use the digital sources to parent out coverage, but they also get assist from social employees, volunteers at nonprofits and own family individuals in their research. The app might assist those people to get admission to data after they don’t want to apply the cell medicare.Gov website, which Schwarz referred to as “not mainly extraordinary.”

There is also no data approximately a way to pick a prescription drug plan, or other supplemental insurance like Medicare Advantage or Medigap plans, that are the real and complicated choices beneficiaries have to deal with. But those choices require more private data, which the app can’t support proper now.

It’s also essential to do not forget, Schwarz stated, that Medicare doesn’t cover most effective seniors. People of every age with disabilities additionally depend on Medicare for fitness coverage, and they may find the app less complicated to use than the conventional website.

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