Did you know every new year brings changes to your Medicare plan? Navigating Medicare itself can be confusing and challenging — understanding all the government rules, coverage details, and staying on top of deadlines. And if you don’t make the right choices, you could end paying high premiums out-of-pocket costs.
Medicare changes have happened over the past year, and it’s important to understand even the smallest changes if you’re a subscriber As the December open enrollment deadline approaches, you have only a few weeks to update your plan.
Whether you’re a new Medicare subscriber or simply renewing your current plan, it’s crucial to stay on top of the current changes. Here’s what you need to look for when reviewing your Medicare plan.
New Medicare Cards Have Been Released
If you haven’t received a new Medicare ID already, keep an eye out. New IDs will be sent out until April 2019.
How can you tell if you’re carrying the right ID card? Current IDs feature your Social Security number, but the updated cards won’t. In order to better protect you from identity theft and fraud, your new card will assign you a new unique ID number – this is the number you’ll now use instead of your Social Security number.
Coverage Gaps Are Smaller
For years, Medicare has required enrollees with high prescription costs to pay the entire bill out of pocket once they reached the Medicare coverage limit of $3,750 for prescription drug purchases. This year, that’s changing, meaning you may no longer need supplemental insurance.
Now, your out-of-pocket medication cost has significantly decreased – Medicare subscribers only have to pay 35 percent of brand-name medications and 44 percent of generic drugs’ costs when you exceed the maximum.
Monthly Costs Are Lower
This year, Medicare Part B premiums have decreased. Thanks to new cost of living adjustments (COLAs), Medicare recipients who make less than $86,000 will receive a social security check that’s gone up two percent.
There’s a New Income Bracket
In addition to the new COLAs, the Medicare income brackets have changed as well in order to make Medicare Part B more affordable. There’s now one addition to the income brackets for those with high incomes.
Medicare recipients who make more than $160,000 ($320,000 for a couple) will now be placed in the highest possible income bracket. This is great news for seniors who make less; you’ll have lower monthly premiums as a result.
Important Differences to Look for in 2019
Medicare is about to get a lot better in 2019 – that’s why it’s so crucial to enroll or make changes to your plan right now. If you don’t use the brief open enrollment window to update your plan, switch, add, or drop coverage, or update your plan based on the above changes, you could end up missing out on the key changes designed to offer seniors more coverage than ever before.
Here are some improvements that will happen heading into 2019:
- Increased Support. This January, there will be more support programs for elderly or disabled Medicare Advantage recipients. Those with coverage will be able to take advantage of the lifestyle support programs like meal delivery, medical transportation, and even home-safety improvements such as bathroom grab bars and wheelchair ramps.
- Access to More Information. Medicare is improving the online Medicare Plan Finder tool with an update that’ll make it easier for Medicare recipients to compare out-of-pocket costs and coverage options.
- Better Therapy Coverage. Congress eliminated the Medicare therapy cap, meaning seniors no longer have to pay the full out-of-pocket cost of physical, speech, or occupational therapy services.
- In-Home Help. If you need assistance at home, you’ll begin to get more financial help for these services in 2019. From home health aides to ride to doctor appointments, Medicare is broadening its coverage beyond medically necessary at-home help.
The deadline to enroll in Medicare or update your current plan is coming up fast. It’s important to take advantage of the 2018 Medicare changes. If you don’t do your research, you could wind up paying more for less coverage.
You have only one chance to make changes to your Medicare enrollment, and it’s right now. Open enrollment ends in December, so make sure to adjust your plan before then!
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