For the first time, during this open enrollment season, Medicare officials are attempting to encourage approximately half a million beneficiaries to switch from 26 private drug and medical plans that have performed poorly over the past three years. In addition to the letters, Medicare is making it harder for people to sign up for one of the 26 plans. If they search for plans on Medicare's plan finder website, they can access and join other, better performing plans electronically but to join one of the 26, they must contact that insurance company directly. Those plans also have a special warning symbol next to their names to highlight their low ratings.