Medicare’s annual open enrollment period begins today, Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7.
What is Medicare Open Enrollment?
Medicare Open Enrollment is the yearly opportunity for those anyone who has not yet enrolled in Medicare to sign up for coverage (outside of an individual’s Initial Enrollment Period). Current Medicare recipients are also able change their insurance plans during this time with no penalty. Medicare Open Enrollment is the perfect time for people with Medicare to change their Medicare health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year to better meet their health needs.
Why Change Medicare Plans?
Medicare health and drug plans can make changes each year. These changes include things like cost, coverage and what providers and pharmacies are in their networks. Additionally, your personal health care needs may have changed. For example, when you first enrolled in Medicare, you may not have taken as many prescriptions, and now find your prescription drug coverage lacking. During Open Enrollment, you will be able to select a new plan that may better suit your needs.
By now, most Medicare recipients should have received notices of any premium increases for 2016, and any notices of changes in coverage for the upcoming year.
In addition to premium increases, you might see the following changes this year:
- Increases in co-payments, co-insurance and out-of-pocket limits.
- Health care providers being dropped or added.
- Changes in prescription drug “formularies,” which identify the reimbursement schedule for specific drugs.
It is very important that you carefully review these changes to see how they might affect you, and if you need to consider looking into other options. What may have been the best plan for you last year, may not be the same for next year.
In some cases, your provider may have opted to drop your plan, and have stated that they will be automatically enrolling you into a substitute plan. If this occurs to you, you will want to carefully look through this substitute plan’s benefits to see how it differs from your current coverage.
Types of Medicare Coverage
Traditional Medicare Part A and Part B generally have significant deductibles and co-insurance, so many who enroll in Medicare Parts A and B also opt to purchase a separate, supplemental plan (called a Medigap plan) to cover the expenses which are not paid for by Medicare. Additionally, because traditional Medicare doesn’t pay for prescription drugs, many people will also purchase a Medicare Part D prescription plan. Keep in mind that both Medigap and Part D plans require additional monthly premiums.
Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans, which are Medicare plans managed by a private insurance company, typically provide more complete coverage than traditional Medicare, so there is no need to purchase a supplemental plan. In addition, many (but not all) Medicare Advantage plans also cover prescription drugs, eliminating the need for a separate Part D plan. Keep in mind that Medicare Advantage plans still have their own co-payments, co-insurance and out-of-pocket limits, and these costs will vary between plans. Additionally, with most Medicare Advantage plans, you will need to receive care from “in-network” providers.
When you purchase a Medicare Advantage plan, keep in mind that you are still required to pay your Part B premium, on top of the Medicare Advantage plan’s listed monthly premium.
Ready to begin shopping for Medicare Coverage? Click here to find a Washington Medicare Plan for 2016.
Open enrollment for Medicare continues until December 7.