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By Rebecca Fending
With Medicare open enrollment season less than a month away, many seniors have questions as to what it means, how they can prepare and what options are best for them. Below is a light guide to how you can navigate open enrollment.
What is Open Enrollment?
Medicare Fall Open Enrollment begins on October 15 and ends December 7 each year. During that window, seniors can adjust health insurance coverages by adding, dropping or changing their Medicare Advantage and Part D coverage for the following year. Even if you don’t see a need to change your coverages, it’s still a great time to assess your plans. Compare your coverages and costs with other plans to ensure that what you are currently enrolled in will benefit you in the coming year.
How to Prepare
There are a few things seniors can do in order to prepare themselves for Fall Open Enrollment:
- Check your mail box and inbox. Medicare and Social Security may be sending notices or informational materials to inform you of your current plan changes or remind you that Open Enrollment is just around the corner. You will also be likely to find marketing pamphlets from insurance companies that offer Medicare plans and healthcare. These may help you choose your plan or interest you in switching carriers. If you have any questions about Medicare or your current plan, visit www.medicare.gov.
- Double check your prescription costs. Drug costs tend to be one of the largest motives for seniors to make changes to their Medicare plans. Be sure to compare what your current prescription prices are versus what they will be in the new year. Take the time to also explore other Medicare plans to see if there may be one that better sues your prescription needs. For help comparing, visit the Medicare Plan Finder.
- Review your 2022 “Medicare & You” handbook. This booklet has information about Medicare coverage, as well as Medicare plans in your area. Download this electronic copy to have on hand whenever you need it this season.
How to Choose the Best One for You
As with anything that comes to your health, you know what’s best for you. This also applies to your Medicare plan, too! Below is a list of the four different Medicare parts:
- Part A provides inpatient/hospital coverage.
- Part B provides outpatient/medical coverage.
- Part C offers an alternate way to receive your Medicare benefits (see below for more information).
- Part D provides prescription drug coverage.
Again, when shopping for new coverages, be sure to take into account all aspects of your plan(s), budgeting and any possible healthcare needs in 2022.
Medicare v. Medicare Advantage Plans
While you know what Medicare is, there are other plans call Medicare Advantage plans. These are another way to get your Medicare Part A and Part B coverage.
Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called “Part C” or “MA Plans,” are offered by Medicare-approved private companies that must follow rules set by Medicare. Most Medicare Advantage Plans include drug coverage (Part D). In many cases, you’ll need to use health care providers who participate in the plan’s network and service area for the lowest costs. These plans set a limit on what you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket each year for covered services, to help protect you from unexpected costs. Some plans offer out-of-network coverage, but sometimes at a higher cost.
There are pros and cons to both Medicare and Medicare Advantage, so be sure to choose what works best for you and your budget.
For any questions while evaluating Medicare plans and coverages, visit the official Medicare website.