October 15 is an important day for seniors. On October 15, open enrollment begins for Medicare. This is the one time of year that you can make a change in your Medicare coverage. Whether it’s changing from or into a Medicare Advantage Plan or changing your Medicare D Prescription Drug Plan, the open enrollment period begins October 15 and ends December 7. Even if you’re happy with your Medicare D Prescription Drug Plan, it is important to take the time to reevaluate your current coverage.
It would be nice if you could select a healthcare plan and let it go for a number of years; unfortunately, Medicare beneficiaries cannot afford to do that. It is important for them to reevaluate their situation year by year. Not only does someone’s health situation change (i.e., you’re on a new or different medication), but also, insurance companies can make changes every year to their Medicare plans that not only can impact your bottom line (i.e., such as your monthly premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs), but in addition, the insurance company can make changes in the list of covered drugs. Therefore, it is important to take the time during the open enrollment period to decide whether you should choose a new Medicare Part D Plan or whether Medicare Advantage is for you. Once again, the Medicare Advantage Plan you used and liked last year could have also made substantial changes that could negatively impact you.
It’s important to understand that if you do use the open enrollment period to change your prescription D plan or choose a new Medicare Advantage Program, your new coverage will begin January 1, 2019.
Probably the best way to begin your reevaluation is to visit the plan finder tool on www.Medicare.gov. This is a free service, and it can help you in narrowing your choices for the best plan for you.
Many times when people do their Medicare searches they tend to focus on those plans with the lowest premiums. There is no doubt that I am always in favor of lower costs; however, there’s more to the equation than just your premiums. Things such as co-payments and deductibles are also important. In some situations the lower cost premium plan can actually cost you more in the long run. Therefore, cost is just one factor. In addition, it is important to somewhat look into the future. After all, because your health situation can change over the next year, it’s important to take that into consideration. For example, if you’re an individual with chronic conditions, a more comprehensive plan might cost you more in upfront premiums, but lower overall total costs.
Unfortunately, nothing in our society is easy and for some seniors it may be a daunting task to do the reevaluation yourself. There are some reputable companies that can assist you for a fee; however, be careful. There are also a fair number of companies that are just crooks. In addition, the State of Michigan does have a free service to assist Medicare recipients. The Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program provides a variety of educational and counseling services. They can be reached at 1-800-803-7174 or you can visit them on their website at www.mmapinc.org.
Remember, for the great majority of people, this is the one time of year where you can make changes to your plan and it is important that you take this opportunity. Also, keep in mind that when you do your reevaluation, husband and wife need to look at their situation independently. After all, in most cases your health situation is not the same, and therefore, the plan that may work for the husband may not be suitable for the wife.
I recognize that it can be a pain to reevaluate your coverage and to make a change. However, it is what it is. The reality of the situation is, if you want to protect yourself and your pocketbook, you must do a reevaluation and the time to do it is now.
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