A line chart showing Google search activity for the term "Medicare plan" has been a little higher in 2018 than in 2016 and in 2017, and much higher in the fourth week and the seventh (about last) week (Chart: Allison Bell/TA)

Consumers might have thought more about Medicare plan shopping this fall than they did in 2016 and 2017.

The annual election period for 2019 coverage started Oct. 15 and is set to end tomorrow. Most issuers are keeping their latest Medicare Advantage plan and Medicare Part D drug plan sales activity numbers quiet, as they always do.

But a look at Google Trends data shows that search activity for terms related to Medicare plan shopping has been significantly stronger this year than in the past two years.

(Related: Medicare Annual Election Period Sails to an End)

Google, a search engine company, makes the Trends tool available here.

People can use the tool to see what terms other people are searching for, and, possibly, thinking about.

Google search traffic for the term “Medicare plan” soared in 2005, when the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan program came to life.

After that, search traffic for the term fell sharply, even during the annual election periods.

Annual election period search activity for the term has increased most years since then.

But this year’s increase appears to be bigger than past increases. The five-year search activity high occurred during the seventh week of the latest annual election period, which ended Tuesday.

The Google Trends tool set “Medicare plan” search activity for the latest week at “100,” indicating that this is top of the five-year Medicare plan search activity chart.

Search activity has been higher than in the past throughout the annual election period, but it’s been especially high this past week.

During Week 7 of the 2016 and 2017 annual election periods, the “Medicare plan” search activity level stood at just 72.

Search activity related to the CVS-Aetna deals appears to be too low to account for the extra “Medicare plan” search increase.

Search activity for “Medicare agent” and “Medicare cost” seems to higher than in the past two years. That could be a sign that Medicare plan shoppers dislike the prices they are seeing when they shop for coverage on their own, and that they are hoping agents can help.

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