Change is one of the few constants in life, and because of that it’s important to be mindful of Medicare Open Enrollment, even if you’re satisfied with your current coverage.
Medicare is a great program that provides health coverage for more than 44 million Americans. But it’s also complex and ever-changing. Because of that, you might need to make some changes during the open enrollment period, to ensure the best possible coverage in the coming year.
The open enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, and in most cases it’s the only time of year Medicare recipients can change plans and coverage. So it’s important to get things right during this window. Here’s a few quick tips on how to successfully navigate Medicare Open Enrollment.
Review to Prepare Change happens with Medicare, so you’ll want to be sure that the premiums and prescription coverage for your current plan will still be a good fit in the coming year. There are a few ways you can do this.
- Every plan is required to send a notice of upcoming changes to participants every year, and it usually arrives by September. It will list all of the changes, but because of that it can be rather bulky.
- If the notice seems overwhelming, sometimes it can be helpful to call your plan and run through your list of medications, to ensure everything is covered.
Another important note: If you are in a Medicare Part C or Medicare Advantage Plan, doctor networks can change from year to year. If you are attached to your current doctor, you’ll want to contact your plan to confirm they’re still in-network.
Comparison Shop Even if there are no detrimental changes to your current plan, it’s still a good idea to get a sense of the overall market, to ensure you’re still getting the best deal. Medicare’s official website, Medicare.gov, has a really useful tool that allows users to enter their information and search for the best deals on health and drug plans.
It’s a great tool for outlining your options, but it can also be a little bit overwhelming, so sometimes it’s best to….
Ask for Help Medicare is complicated, but fortunately there’s a great program called SHINE (Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone), which provides free, unbiased counseling on Medicare in Massachusetts.
SHINE counselors are volunteers who have undergone 40 hours of training, with the goal of helping others receive the best possible coverage. To set up an appointment with a SHINE counselor, contact the Aging Information Center at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services or your local Council on Aging.
Also—be sure to call early: there are a limited number of counselors, and they are booked fairly quickly.
Don’t be Late The Dec. 7 deadline is firm for most Medicare beneficiaries, and in most cases your coverage for the coming year will be whatever you determined by that date. So don’t procrastinate!
One final word of advice: our SHINE counselors always advise people reviewing Medicare plans to take all of the factors into account, when choosing a plan. For example, a lot of Medicare Advantage plans like to highlight that they have $0 premiums, which sounds really good—but generally the lower the premium, the more money you’ll pay for a hospital visit or rehab stay. Those factors, along with the prescription drug costs, are all part of determining how much you’ll pay out-of-pocket each year, so it’s good to stay focused on the big picture.
Somerville Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) is a non-profit agency that supports the independence and well-being of older people in Somerville and Cambridge. For more information, visit eldercare.org, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or contact the SCES Aging Information Center at 617-628-2601 for free advice and guidance.