WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
If you are one of the 65 million people on Medicare, December 7th is a date you need to be aware of. Each year, beginning mid-October and running through the first week of December, there is a Medicare Open Enrollment period during which you can make selections and changes to the health plan you are enrolled in. Anyone who is on Medicare is likely familiar with the flood of advertisements that begin filling your mailbox when it’s close to open enrollment season and sorting through the barrage of information can be confusing.
While it’s not necessary to switch, checking in on the costs associated with your current health plan and reviewing options that might now suit your financial and health needs better is an important part of a comprehensive financial plan. So where do you begin?
Assess Your Situation
Put aside all the advertisements and review your current medical needs and financial situation. Have you had a change in income since the last time you selected a plan? How about your health? Do you have any new diagnoses? New prescription medications? These factors should be considered. You may find that the plan you are currently enrolled in will continue to provide you with seamless care. Or you may benefit from a change.
- You might already have a Medicare Advantage plan without drug coverage and have a new diagnosis that requires prescription medication. A better fit for you might be a Medicare Advantage plan that has drug coverage.
- Or you may find that another policy offers the same value at a lower cost. As Medicare Advantage plans are private insurance, costs, deductibles and premiums can vary widely. You could possibly save money switching from one Medicare Advantage plan to another Medicare Advantage plan.
- This is also the time that if you have Original Medicare and want to add a Part D prescription drug plan, you can. Or you may want to switch from a Medicare Advantage plan into Original Medicare.
- Essentially, any type of change to your Medicare plan (within specific plan guidelines) can be done during this window of open enrollment.
Do Your Research
How do you know which plan will suit your needs best? Compare, compare, compare!
- Make sure you review your current plan thoroughly, taking into account any coverage changes for the upcoming year that will be outlined in an “Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC) letter. The Medicare plan you’re currently in sends this letter to you by the end of September to inform you of any change of cost or coverage that will go into effect on January 1st.
- What plans are your doctors on? Are you happy with your current healthcare providers but are considering switching to a new plan? Or are you expecting to need specialized care in the coming year, and need to enroll in a plan that the new providers participate in? You can contact your doctors to find out more about which plans they accept or verify directly with the Medicare plan you’re interested in.
- Do you need prescription drug coverage? You may want to add or drop this coverage.
- Do you regularly need specialized supplies, such as diabetic monitors? Not every plan will cover the same supplies, so it’s best to verify exactly what is available to you before making any decisions.
- What are the costs associated with your current plan versus one you might be considering? Review premiums, copays, coinsurance rates and deductibles in determining how much your care will cost.
- What additional benefits are provided? For example, you might find that one Medicare Advantage plan may be very similar to another one, but one may offer $3000 in annual dental benefits and the other may only offer $1500. If this is important to you, it could help you choose. Vision, hearing, transportation, and even gym memberships might be benefits included in various plans that you can factor in.
Take Advantage of Resources
- Visit Medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). You can find out what plans are available in your area and compare.
- The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) provides unbiased help and can assist you in reviewing Medicare plan options and answer questions.
- Consider speaking with a health insurance broker. A knowledgeable broker can help you sort through your options and select a plan that is good for you. Keep in mind that agents may work for a single health insurance company and brokers may represent several. You won’t pay anything additional to enroll through them, but some will not enroll you in a plan that they do not represent.
Know Who You Are Talking To
It’s important to be mindful that Medicare Open Enrollment season is a time when you must keep up your guard. Unfortunately, scammers may target seniors with variations of phishing scams and identity fraud under the guise of helping with Medicare changes. Guard your personal information, and never give out details such as your Medicare number to anyone unless you have initiated contact and are sure of who you are speaking with. Medicare will never call you, email you, or text you out of the blue, however, they will respond if you have called and left a message asking for a return call. Remember that your Medicare card should be guarded like a credit card. If you have any questions, contact Medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE directly.
Navigating the many options available to you as a Medicare enrollee can be overwhelming at times, but with a little research and planning, you may find that making a change during the open enrollment period might be worth the effort. If you have any questions regarding Medicare and how your healthcare fits within your financial plan, please feel free to contact us.