Every year, Medicare introduces new changes to seniors’ health insurance coverage. And if you’re age 65 or older, those changes can seriously affect your medical costs.
Fortunately, during Medicare’s open enrollment period – which runs from October 15 to December 7 each year – gives you the chance to change your coverage. During open enrollment, you’re able to adjust your plan to maximize both your insurance and its value.
In order to ensure you’re making the best possible choices during open enrollment, it’s important to be prepared. If you’re thinking about making changes to your Medicare coverage, here’s how you can prepare yourself right now.
Know What You Can Change – and What You Can’t
There are many, many misconceptions about Medicare. Some people think there’s only one option for Medicare coverage, and others think coverage stays the same. However, Medicare is always changing from year to year. And there are some things you can control – and some you cannot.
Each year, you’re allowed to change your Medicare coverage during open enrollment. But that only means you can change certain parts of your coverage. Anyone who’s already enrolled in Medicare can make the following changes during the open enrollment period:
- Switch from Medicare Part C to Original Medicare (which includes Medicare Parts A and B)
- Switch from Original Medicare to Part C
- Change your Part C plan
- Change your Part D plan (your prescription drug plan)
- Enroll in a Part D plan (only for those on Original Medicare).
Keep in mind that changes are ahead for Medicare Part D. So, before you prepare to make any changes to Part D – or even other parts of Medicare – it’s important to research how those changes may impact your coverage.
Pay Close Attention to Your Coverage
Before open enrollment begins in the fall, the government will send you two documents: Evidence of Coverage (EOC) and Annual Notice of Change (ANOC). These two important documents let Medicare subscribers know how their coverage and plans will be changing next year.
In order to prepare for open enrollment, you need to read these documents. Make sure you know what your coverage will be, how much you’ll pay, and what changes are coming to your Medicare plans.
That information will help you decide if you need to shop around for a new plan, increase your coverage, or make any other changes to your current Medicare plan. You can use the EOC and ANOC to determine just how effective your coverage will be.
Seniors should look for the answers to these questions to determine if you might need to change your coverage:
- Will your doctors still be covered or in network?
- Will the services you need most often – such as checkups or care for a particular health concern – be covered?
- Will you have to pay more for medical care or providers?
- Is your premium, deductible, or co-pay changing?
- Will your expenses increase significantly?
Check Your Medication and Medicare’s Prescription Drug Coverage
In addition to checking to see if your current Medicare will still meet your needs next year, you should make sure to take a close look at your prescription drug coverage.
One of the biggest complaints seniors have about Medicare is the lack of complete prescription drug coverage. And though this is changing to better meet seniors’ needs in the future, you still need to make sure your important medications are covered.
Prescription coverage can vary depending on which Medicare plan you’ve chosen, and it often changes from year to year. Make sure you look into what your plan will cover in the year ahead. If your medications – prescriptions you need daily or monthly – aren’t covered, your costs will increase. You’ll have to pay more money out of pocket every time you visit the pharmacy.
You’ll also want to check which tier your prescriptions fall into. Medications often switch tiers, and if they now fall into a higher tier, your copay will be higher.
Prepare for Changes by Shopping for New Plans
There’s one final step you need to take to prepare for Medicare open enrollment: you need to do your research and shop around before deciding on a plan.
While your Medicare plan may be working for you right now, it’s always a good idea to be knowledgeable and aware of other options. If you know what other plans offer, you’ll be ready to switch should you need to.
Additionally, shopping around for other plans can also help you determine if you’re truly getting the coverage you need at the best price. You should see what other plans offer, how much coverage they provide, and what your costs – premium, copays, and other expenses – would be.
Armed with all of this knowledge, you’ll be ready to face open enrollment for Medicare with confidence. You’ll know if you need to change your plan, and if you can save money without sacrificing important coverage, before open enrollment begins on October 15.