The Medicare open enrollment period is here again. It begins each October 15th and continues through December 7th, and according to this recent article on the website MarketWatch, you really shouldn’t skip it. If you do, you could be missing out on hundreds of dollars in savings.
Open enrollment refers to that time each year when Americans are given the option to review and, if desired, change their coverage. (Other changes outside open enrollment are generally allowed only in certain qualifying situations, such as loss of a job.) This period of a bit over seven weeks is the perfect time – often the only time – to examine your coverage to explore the potential for major savings, but ironically the majority of Medicare beneficiaries ignore open enrollment altogether. “Every year, many beneficiaries could save hundreds of dollars by changing plans,” says MarketWatch author Ken Moraif, a Dallas-based financial planner. “But every year, most of them do nothing.”
Why is this so? According to Moraif, the reason is simple: the information seems overwhelming and the review process seems daunting. Many feel it’s just plain easier to keep the coverage they have, in spite of the premium dollars and other costs they might be leaving on the table. To help with this process MarketWatch offers a few suggestions on how to proceed during open enrollment to make sure you’re getting the best, most appropriate coverage your premium dollars can buy.
(Before we list some of the article’s recommendations, we would like to suggest that you contact us here at AgingOptions and let us assist you with your Medicare evaluation process. Because we have counseled thousands of clients, radio listeners and attendees at our seminars, we can refer you to trusted Medicare experts who will provide objective advice to help you review your plans and make changes that are right for you.)
The first suggestion from MarketWatch is to begin with what you have and review your current plan, even if you think you know what it includes. Ken Moraif reminds you that “Plans can change, and so can your needs.” Carefully read the documents sent by your carrier (an Annual Notice of Change and/or a document called Evidence of Coverage) to make certain you know if revisions have been implemented during the past year.
Next you’ll want to make certain your present physician or geriatrician is covered under your plan. Not all doctors and clinics accept all forms of Medicare or Medicare Advantage coverage, and affiliation can change, so make sure you ask your doctor, just to make certain. In the same way, take a good look at coverage for your prescription drugs, and find out which pharmacies accept your insurance plan so you’ll have ready access to one near you. Comparing prescription drug benefits can be one way to generate surprising savings in premiums.
Speaking of premiums, there’s much more to Medicare coverage than just your premium cost. You’ll want to compare deductibles, co-payments, and other out of pocket expenses in order to make a true cost comparison. Medicare Advantage plans also have various maximum out of pocket spending limits, which can make a huge difference in your costs if you’re being treated for a chronic health condition.
MarketWatch includes links to two places where you can get help reviewing plans and options. One is Medicare’s PlanFinder which allows comparison of various plans specific to your locale. The other link takes you to the Washington State Health Insurance Assistance Program website. But as we said above, we at AgingOptions can also help you get the advice you need to make an objective evaluation. Call us any time during the week so we can discuss your situation.
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(originally reported at www.marketwatch.com)