Medicare Open Enrollment

Medicare Open Enrollment

Picking a plan just got easier with new plan finder.
Medicare Open Enrollment, Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, is when Medicare recipients can change their health plans and prescription drug coverage for 2020 to best meet their needs. Things like cost, coverage, and in-network providers and pharmacies may change from year to year and what works one year may not work the next.

The process can seem overwhelming.

Now Medicare’s 60 million beneficiaries should have an easier time of it, say officials. For the first time in a decade, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has launched a modernized and redesigned Medicare Plan Finder at medicare.gov/plan-compare/.

The updated website features a mobile-friendly and easy-to-read design that will help enrollees and their caregivers compare prices between basic Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medigap policies.

The retooled website allows beneficiaries to compare up to three Part D prescription plans side by side, including what the costs are for buying at a local pharmacy and through mail order. It also informs users if a generic form is available.

These are just a few of the changes that are part of the Trump Administration’s eMedicare initiative, which is designed to meet the needs of tech-savvy beneficiaries who use smartphones, desktops and tablets.

The online tools don’t replace Medicare’s traditional customer service options— people will still have access to the Medicare handbook and be able to get phone help by calling
1-800-MEDICARE.

Our goal is to provide a seamless, transparent online experience,” CMS Administrator
Seema Verma said in a statement. “The redesigned Medicare Plan Finder is another example of how CMS is empowering beneficiaries with price and quality information to take
advantage of lower rates and new benefits in Medicare Advantage and Part D.”

In 2019, CMS added nearly 600 Medicare Advantage plans with average premiums declining to their lowest levels in six years. Over the past three years, average Part D basic premiums have decreased from $34.70 to a projected $30 in 2020, saving beneficiaries about $1.9 billion in premium costs.

In addition to upgrading the Medicare Plan Finder, CMS has redesigned the Medicare homepage and refreshed the personalized MyMedicare.gov portal to create an easy to navigate, personalized online experience for people with Medicare.

New to Medicare?
At age 65, you become eligible for Medicare and it’s essential to be aware of the deadlines. You can sign up three months before your 65th birthday; you have until three months after your birthday month to enroll. Missing the deadline could result in higher premiums.

If you have employer-sponsored healthcare, talk to your employer and a Medicare agent about when to sign up.

Before you start to select a plan, make a list of your doctors that you want to keep as
well as your medications, making sure your policy covers them. Part D plans have a list of covered drugs called formularies. If your medicine is not on the plan’s formulary, you will either need to request an exemption, pay out-of-pocket, or file an appeal.

Consider your travel plans, too, and what would happen if you have a medical emergency when away from home.

For instance, those who split time between residences in two states may not be able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that will provide coverage in both places. And Medicare can be tricky for overseas travel. If you leave the country, Medicare may not cover you,
even in an emergency.

In some circumstances, though, Medicare will pay for care in a foreign hospital or aboard a ship. Some Medicare Advantage plans do cover emergency care abroad.

Most experts recommend not to rely on basic Medicare alone with no extra coverage. To do so could be a costly mistake—even one expensive hospital visit could put you in bankruptcy. Between deductibles, copays, coinsurance, and no out-of-pocket maximum,
the basic Medicare program alone can present a substantial financial risk.

About a third of beneficiaries enroll in Advantage plans, which offer out-of-pockets maximums. Some include extra perks like vision and dental, wheelchair ramps, shower grips, meal delivery, and transportation to the doctors’ offices.

Basic Medicare can be supplemented with employer sponsored insurance, Medicaid (for those who qualify), or a Medigap policy.

Note that the ideal time to buy a Medigap policy is during your Medigap open enrollment period, which begins at 65. During that time, the insurance companies can’t deny you coverage for a preexisting condition, and they have to give you the best rate.

Be sure to consult with a knowledgeable Medicare agent to understand what your best choices are.

And, of course, read the plan carefully.
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