The Medicare annual enrollment period is quickly coming to an end on Dec. 7. Regardless of whether you plan to make changes or not, it is highly recommended that you take the time to review your coverage. Why? Because this simple act could potentially save you money.
The Importance of Reviewing Your Coverage
It may be tempting to assume that if you are satisfied with your current Medicare plan, there is no need to explore other coverage options. However, this line of thinking could end up costing you. Surprisingly, over seven out of ten Medicare beneficiaries did not compare their coverage during the previous annual enrollment period in 2018, according to the nonpartisan think tank KFF. One possible reason for this lack of comparison is the perceived complexity of the process.
By neglecting to review your coverage, you might unknowingly miss out on more cost-effective plans. In fact, it is not uncommon for individuals to end up paying $1,000 or more simply because they ignored the enrollment deadline.
What Determines the "Right" Medicare Plan
Multiple factors contribute to determining the most suitable Medicare plan for each individual. These factors include location, in-network doctors and facilities, prescription drugs, and other medical necessities. It's also significant to note that plans can change annually, and enrollees are typically notified of any forthcoming changes.
President of Aetna Medicare, Terri Swanson, emphasizes that just because a plan worked well in one year does not mean it will remain the best choice moving forward. Flexibility and adaptability are key when it comes to navigating the ever-evolving landscape of Medicare plans.
Last-Minute Tasks to Consider
If you haven't already done so, here are a few essential tasks to complete before the open enrollment window closes on Dec. 7:
Though comparing plans may seem time-consuming, it can potentially result in substantial savings. By reviewing the costs for medicines and health expenses under your current plan and one or two alternatives, you may be able to save hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.
To help with this process, the National Council on Aging's BenefitsCheckUp tool can quickly provide eligible enrollees with relevant programs to consider. Additionally, Medicare.gov offers a convenient tool that allows users to find and compare coverage. If you have an account on the site, you will receive a summary of your current coverage, along with information on the drugs or pharmacies you use, enabling you to make well-informed cost comparisons.
Take control of your Medicare coverage today and potentially discover significant savings before it's too late!
Look at Star Ratings
Medicare beneficiaries can use Star ratings to gauge the quality of a health plan. These ratings are based on up to 40 quality and performance measures, depending on the type of coverage, as stated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Swanson, an expert in the field, emphasized that Star ratings are an effective tool to assess the performance and quality of a Medicare Advantage plan.
For instance, a substantial 42% of Medicare Advantage plans with Part D for 2024 have achieved four or more stars, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Impressively, around three-quarters of enrollees in Medicare Advantage with Part D plans are covered by contracts that have earned four or more stars.
Talk to Someone — Including Yourself
If you still require assistance, there are helpful resources available, such as the state health insurance assistance program (commonly known as SHIPs). Each state has its own program that provides counseling services to beneficiaries who may struggle to understand their options.
In these final days, take the time to go through a checklist of important questions to ask yourself. This includes understanding your copay at the doctor's office and determining whether there will be any additional medications you'll need to take in the new year. Additionally, verify whether your doctors and medical facilities will still be in-network in 2024 or if any other changes may occur with your current plan.
Look to the Next Deadline
Medicare Advantage offers its own open-enrollment period, which starts from Jan. 1 and extends until March 31. This period allows individuals who are already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan to switch to another plan, regardless of whether it includes drug coverage. They can also choose to add drug coverage or return to Original Medicare by dropping their current plan. It is important to note that this enrollment period is separate from the current open enrollment period, as individuals with Original Medicare are unable to join a Medicare Advantage plan during the January enrollment period.