(StatePoint) Feeling overwhelmed by your Medicare options? There’s a good reason for that. With more than 3,000 Medicare Advantage plans, over 700 Part D Prescription Plans available and an array of carriers offering Medicare Supplement plans, there’s a lot to consider.
“Whether this is your first time enrolling in Medicare or you’ve been through the process before, it’s easy to get confused by the big picture, not to mention all the details,” says Ryan Kocher, Medicare growth officer at Cigna.
This Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP), Kocher is demystifying the enrollment process by sharing the same tips he offers to his own friends and family members:
1. Don’t wait. Understanding Medicare can protect your health and finances in the years to come. If you are transitioning from a commercial plan, work with an expert with your company’s insurance plan to avoid gaps in coverage as well as late penalties.
2. Nail down the basics. There are many different plan types. Here’s a breakdown:
• Original Medicare, offered through the U.S. government, includes all providers who agree to participate in the program.
• Medicare Supplement plans are plans offered by many private insurers that complement Original Medicare. For an additional premium, these plans cover costs such as copays and coinsurance not covered by Original Medicare. There are a number of standardized options available.
• Standalone Prescription Drug Plans, offered by private insurers for a monthly premium, provide drug coverage not covered by Original Medicare or Medicare Supplement.
• Medicare Advantage (MA) plans cover everything covered by Original Medicare, and most also include dental, vision and hearing benefits. They often include prescription drug coverage, and other extras like over-the-counter drugs, transportation to doctor’s visits and pharmacies, and fitness plans. MA plans are often available at no extra cost.
3. Review your plan annually. During the AEP (October 15-December 7), it’s important to review your current Medicare plan, even if you like it. This is because plan details are subject to change every year. Review the Annual Notice of Changes, which is mailed to you by your insurer each September. This document spells out plan changes for the upcoming year.
4. Compare all the costs. Be sure to factor in all the associated costs of a given plan, not just the monthly premium. Out-of-pocket costs, such as co-pays and deductibles, should also be considered. Additionally, note the prices and rules around the prescription drugs you take.
5. Check network requirements. Before signing up for a particular plan, check to make sure that your favorite health care providers are in its network. While you may be able to go out of network for care, be prepared to pay more if you do.
6. Ask questions. Don’t settle on a plan until you understand it. If you have questions, reach out to your broker, insurer, physician and even those friends and family members who have Medicare for help.
7. Use your plan. Now that you have a plan, make the most of its benefits. Schedule all the screenings, vaccines and other preventive health measures recommended by your doctor. Early intervention can help detect conditions early when they can be more effectively treated.
“Don’t be daunted by the Medicare enrollment process. Being a careful shopper can ensure you find a plan that accommodates your wallet and your well-being,” says Kocher.
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