(BPT) – Are you among the 54 million Americans currently receiving health insurance through Medicare? The Medicare annual enrollment period (AEP), running from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, means you have the opportunity to change plans, and possibly find cost savings or better coverage.
Seniors and people with disabilities who receive their health care insurance through Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription drug plans can make changes to their plans during the AEP. They have a lot to consider this year.
More than 200 new prescription drug plans arrived in the Part D market this year and more than 2,000 Medicare Advantage plans were available nationwide.
“On average, seniors have about 18 Medicare Advantage plans and 35 Part D plans to choose from,” says Mary Dale Walters, senior vice president of the Allsup Medicare Advisor, a nationwide Medicare plan selection service.
Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans also continues to increase – nearly 16 million people in 2014 – which indicates that more people like the benefits of using these health care plans. Many Medicare Advantage plans also have provider networks that mirror the type of coverage beneficiaries had through their employers while working.
“But people may have dozens of Medicare plans to choose from, depending on where they live. This really opens the door to finding Medicare plans that are a better fit for you and your health care needs,” Walters says.
Walters offers some guidelines for when it might be worth exploring other Medicare plans:
1. You’re paying too much for your monthly premium. Perhaps you’ve been with the same plan for several years and each year the cost goes up a little bit more. Shop around; there may be a number of other plan options where you live that could provide the same or better coverage at a lower cost.
2. You’re paying too much out of pocket after you receive medical treatment. The costs with Medicare go beyond the monthly premium and include co-payments, coinsurance, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. If you’ve been surprised by the costs you must pay for medical treatment after the fact, you may want to talk to a Medicare plan selection specialist about your options and to ensure you know what to expect.
3. You can’t use your preferred doctors with your Medicare plan. Some Medicare plans can change the networks of doctors and hospitals you can see. If you’re finding it more and more difficult to see the doctors you would like to because of network changes, you could benefit from revisiting the Medicare plans in your area.
4. Prescription drug costs and coverage issues are causing you financial problems. The costs of medications today can be financially crippling for people with chronic health issues and those requiring specialized treatment. Some plans change their drug formularies from year to year, which can affect the cost of the drug you take or your ability to get coverage for a specific prescription medication.
5. You had a life change in the past year or expect big changes next year. If your income changed dramatically, you experienced a life-changing health issue, or you moved or plan to move, it could be vital for you to re-examine the scope of your Medicare coverage.
6. You were notified your plan will no longer be available in 2015. Sometimes Medicare plans leave the market. This can happen because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) determine that some of the plans are too similar and are no longer necessary, or there may be quality concerns or other reasons.
Medicare participants can find important information for annual enrollment through the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and the Evidence of Coverage (EOC) that they receive from their insurance providers. Watch the mail for these important notices.
“Don’t ignore the information you get from your Medicare plan providers in September because they may be telling you about premium changes and other provisions that will change your health care services next year,” Walters says. “Take a close look at those materials, and consider reaching out to a Medicare plan selection specialist to help you review your options.”
Experienced Medicare specialists such as the Allsup Medicare Advisor are available to help consumers make a comparative analysis of Medicare plans from numerous providers and insurance companies to find coverage that best matches their personal needs.
For an evaluation of your Medicare plan needs, call an Allsup Medicare Advisor specialist at (866) 521-7655 or visit Medicare.Allsup.com.