Every year, Medicare recipients have an opportunity to make changes to their healthcare coverage. From October 15 through December 7, you can drop, switch, or enroll in Medicare plans. Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period (OEP) may be your chance you to lower your out-of-pocket costs or expand your benefits.
If you experience changes in your health or budget, or just want to explore the Medicare options in your area, OEP is the time to do just that. But, before you make a decision, go over the following checklist. Being prepared for OEP will help you find the plan that’s right for you.
- Review the medical bills you’ve paid during the past year.
Go over the out-of-pocket costs you’ve paid, including deductibles and plan premiums. How much did you pay in copayments and coinsurance for doctor visits, hospital stays, or prescription drugs? You may find that another plan will provide you with the same benefits you already have, but at a lower overall cost.
- Note any changes to your health over the past year
When you experience changes to your medical needs, your healthcare costs can change pretty quickly. Have you been diagnosed with a condition or disease that required more attention? Is your current plan meeting your needs, or are you finding that your costs for visits or medications are simply too high? You may want to explore other plans that may help lower your costs, but give you the comprehensive coverage you need.
- Were you diagnosed with a chronic condition that requires visits to specialists or new medications? You may be eligible for a Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan that will cater to the needs of your particular condition. You may qualify if you’ve been diagnosed with certain diseases, including but not limited to cancer, heart failure, lung disorders. HIV/AIDS, dementia, or more. If you’ve moved into assisted living or qualified for Medicaid, you also may find Special Needs Plans that will meet your needs.
- Make a list of all the current medications you need.
Comprise a list of all the prescriptions you require, including the dosage. What do you pay each time you go the pharmacy for a new prescription or refill? Do you belong to Original Medicare and have a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan, or are you enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage? Drug plans are required to cover a wide range of drugs most commonly used by Medicare recipients, but each plan will have its own formulary, or list of covered drugs, and different tiers of pricing. There may be other plans in your area that may save you money.
- Review your Evidence of Coverage
When you receive your Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from your current plan in September, read through it carefully to learn about any changes that will take effect on January 1. If your plan will continue to meet your needs, you can keep it. If you’d like to explore your options, compare other plans to your current one. If another plan will provide you with better coverage at a lower cost, you may want to switch during Open Enrollment.
- Compare plans
Online comparison tools are easy to use and can give you access to all the plans available in your area. Take the time to compare plan benefits and costs. If you have questions along the way, speak to a licensed sales agent. If you find a plan that’s right for you, you can enroll during OEP.
If you decide to switch plans, you can enroll before Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period ends on December 7. Your new coverage will go into effect on January 1.