As we’ve been reminding you in our blog and on the radio, Medicare open enrollment is arriving very soon, along with autumn leaves and pumpkin spice lattes. The official opening date is October 15th, but the window that allows you to change or upgrade your coverage without penalty only stays open for a fairly brief seven and a half weeks. If you procrastinate about doing your Medicare homework, you will probably regret it, which is why we’re bringing you this recent article from Forbes as one more reminder to get started now.
Medicare Challenges: Big Decisions to Make, Not a Lot of Time to Make Them
The Forbes article is written by Steve Vernon, an author, speaker and researcher on retirement, and it’s called “Five Challenges to Consider With Upcoming Medicare Open Enrollment.” Vernon’s point is the same one you’ve heard Rajiv make on the radio: it’s all about preparation and planning. “If you’re age 65 or older and are eligible for Medicare,” he writes, “you have a golden opportunity to choose wisely regarding your coverage or correct any previous mistakes you might have made regarding your Medicare elections. You also have a chance to upgrade your coverage for 2020 and potentially save lots of money.” However, we would emphasize, with open enrollment only running from October 15th through December 7th, you don’t have a lot of time to evaluate your options.
Of course, judging from the amount of mail you’re probably receiving from insurance companies (assuming you’re Medicare-eligible), we doubt whether those in the business of selling you on their policies will let you forget. “Your mailbox will most likely be filled in the upcoming weeks with solicitations for policies to supplement your Medicare coverage,” says the Forbes article. While some of those solicitations may contain helpful information, we suggest you get some objective advice to help you choose wisely. Attending a free LifePlanning seminar with Rajiv is an excellent place to start – and we’ll say more about that in a moment.
Medicare Challenges: Choosing Supplemental Coverage, Evaluating Drug Plans
Meanwhile, as Steve Vernon says, “As you’re going through this mail, keep in mind the following situations that might help you avoid or correct a mistake or upgrade your coverage during Medicare Open Enrollment.” Here are what he calls his five Medicare challenges.
- If you need supplemental coverage. Many people approaching the age of Medicare eligibility are completely unaware that, as important as it is, Medicare insurance alone will leave a beneficiary exposed to extra charges that can prove catastrophic for those with low to moderate income. As Forbes puts it, “If you don’t think you need a medical insurance policy to supplement Medicare, you’re making a big mistake! Medicare has significant deductibles and copayments, and it doesn’t cover services commonly covered by many medical insurance plans.” There are essentially two coverage options: a Medicare Supplement Plan (also called a Medigap plan), or a Medicare Advantage Plan, both purchased through a private insurer and required to meet Medicare rules. Deciding which is right for you can be complex. “Both types of coverage have their pros and cons,” says Vernon, “so be sure to do your homework to see which type of policy might work best for you. Now’s the time to get this right!”
- If you take several prescription drugs. If you’re new to Medicare, carefully evaluating drug coverage options (called Part D) is a step often overlooked, says Don’t assume your prescriptions will be covered. We suggest spending time at the official Medicare website where you can find out for yourself what’s covered and what’s not. Picking the right drug plan from the outset can greatly reduce out-of-pocket costs.
- If you have a new diagnosis or new prescriptions. The same advice applies if you’re already on a drug plan but your health and your prescriptions have changed. Open enrollment is the time to compare your current plan with other options and possibly make a change. This is also true if you’re on a Medicare Advantage plan. “You might also want to see if the plan is the best choice for you considering your new health condition,” says Vernon. “You may want to see if your plan’s network includes specialists for your condition. And if you’ve been admitted into an assisted living facility, there are Medicare Advantage plans that are specifically designed to serve residents of these facilities.”
Medicare Challenges: Overseas Travel, Changes to Existing Coverage
- If you plan to travel overseas in 2020. Here’s an easy one to overlook. As Forbes warns, “Be aware that standard Medicare and most Medicare Advantage Plans generally don’t cover services you receive outside the U.S. However, some, but not all, Medicare Supplement plans do provide coverage overseas.” Author Steve Vernon’s advice if you’re planning to travel overseas during the coming year is to consider a Medicare Supplement plan that include overseas coverage. But be aware that in most states, if you didn’t opt for a supplement plan during your initial open enrollment period when you were first eligible, you’ll probably have to go through medical underwriting and you can be denied supplemental coverage or face higher premiums.
- If your existing plan has substantially changed. Insurance companies are required to notify you in writing of any changes to their policies. “Carefully read any mail that your provider sends you this fall,” says Vernon. “If they’ve increased copayments or reduced coverage, it might pay to shop around for a better plan.” You can always switch your Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D Prescription Drug Plan during open enrollment, but as we noted, switching to a new Medicare Supplement Plan might require medical underwriting.
Medicare Challenges: The Key is to Plan Ahead for All Aspects of Retirement
The bottom line is to take your time and do your homework – which is also great advice when it comes to retirement planning. That’s why we at AgingOptions offer our highly popular LifePlanning Seminars in locations throughout the area. At these free events, you’ll hear retirement planning expert Rajiv Nagaich explain that, in a well-integrated retirement plan, all the elements have to fit together: medical coverage, financial security, legal protection, family communication, and housing plans. These form the basis of a LifePlan, a powerful blueprint that will guide you as you create the type of retirement you’ve always dreamed of.
Please accept our invitation to join Rajiv at an upcoming LifePlanning Seminar – especially now with Medicare Open Enrollment looming. Visit our Live Events page for a current calendar, and then register online or give us a call. Some proper planning now can help ensure retirement satisfaction long into the future. Age on!
(originally reported at www.forbes.com)