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Medicare Open Enrollment: 11 Tips for Getting Great Coverage

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Tis the season… No, it is not quite time to decide whether you’ll say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Enjoy the Winter Solstice, Bah Humbug or none of the above. It does, however, involve shopping! The Medicare Open Enrollment season is upon us and will last from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

Now is the time to assess your current coverage and shop around for perhaps a better deal or a plan more suitable to your current health needs. Here are 11 tips for getting the best coverage and care from the Medicare Open Enrollment Period:

Medicare’s open enrollment is a time period every year when you can:

  • Switch from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage (or vice versa)
  • Change your Medicare Advantage plan
  • Join (or switch to a different) Medicare prescription drug plan

Not everyone knows this, but Medicare plans can — and do — change. So, the first step is to find out what is new with your existing coverage.

If there are changes, your plan should have sent you a “Plan Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC) last September. If you think you missed it, call your insurer and ask for the “annual notice of change.”

Pay particular attention to:

  • The list of drugs that the plan will cover in the next year
  • How much those drugs will cost
  • What the premium will be in 2022
  • What percentage that the plan will pay for different types of medical expenses

NOTE: Some Part D plans are being discontinued. If you are enrolled in a Part D drug plan, be sure it is available next year. And, if not, find an alternative.

It is illegal for any licensed Medicare agent to make unsolicited contact with you. So, if you get a call, text, or voicemail from someone offering Medicare services, it is a scam.

Do not give out any personal information.

You may want to call your doctors’ offices and ask to speak with the billing department. They should be able to tell you which plans they will be accepting in 2022. If they are dropping your existing plan, then you will want to see if any of the other plans are affordable for you.

Once you know what your existing Medicare Supplemental plan will cover in 2022, you should compare how well that matches your current and anticipated needs.

Will your existing plan still cover the medications you take? Has your health changed and do you now have different needs?

Even if your existing plan works well for you, you should still shop around to see if there is a more cost-effective option.

You can contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIP (sometimes called by another name) provides free counseling to any Medicare recipient to help people choose a Medicare plan.

Medicare also has a handbook, Medicare and You 2022, that will help you see what plans are available in your area.

The NewRetirement Retirement Planner also enables you to estimate your lifetime medical costs for different coverage types, health conditions and premium levels.

Once you have identified a plan or plans that may be a good fit for your particular health needs, you can look up how well those plans rate.

Medicare.gov lets you research plan quality and performance ratings. (Note: The star rating system will change for future years.)

U.S. News and World Report is also a reliable source. They evaluate all insurance companies and the plans they offer in each state. See the Best Medicare Advantage Plans and the Best Medicare Part D Plans.

Even with supplemental coverage, prescription co-pays can add up. To save money, discuss your concerns with your doctor. Ask if they will prescribe a less expensive alternative or a generic.

Whatever your doctor prescribes, shop around to fill your prescription. Filling the same prescription at Costco versus CVS could save a lot. Ordering a 90-day supply online may save you even more.

If you’re still working and are eligible to contribute to an HSA, take advantage of it. Your contributions are made pre-tax, the money in your account grows tax-free, and you can withdraw funds from the account at any time tax-free, as long as the money is used for qualified medical expenses.

Learn more about HSAs: What they are and why they are a compelling savings option.

If you are in good health, you’ll spend less on retirement health care costs.

Medicare offers a wide range of immunizations, preventive screenings and well-being programs for free.

Out of pocket medical costs are one of the three biggest expenditures for most retirees. Studies have shown that the total out of pocket Medicare costs are higher than the total Social Security income for the average retiree. In other words, Social Security income does not even cover what most retirees will have to spend on their health.

So, it is important to make sure that your retirement finances are prepared for this major expense.

The NewRetirement Planner is an award-winning calculator that can help you prepare.  This easy to use tool offers very detailed and sophisticated calculations and includes retirement health care costs.

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