October 15 begins the Medicare annual enrollment period, a vital time for nearly 55 million beneficiaries to review and adjust their health care coverage.
Paying close attention to plan details is important, especially for seniors with chronic illnesses that require ongoing treatment.
Selecting or Changing Health Plans
People already enrolled in Medicare should receive an annual notice of change from their current plan. It details any expected changes to the plan’s costs, benefits and rules – changes that take effect January 1.
Medicare beneficiaries can also make changes of their own, such as:
- Switching to Medicare Advantage: Seniors can switch from original Medicare (Part A and Part B) to a Medicare Advantage plan, which often includes additional benefits like prescription drug coverage and dental services.
- Reverting to original Medicare: If a Medicare Advantage plan isn’t the right fit, beneficiaries can switch back to a standard Medicare plan.
- Changing Medicare Advantage plans: Those already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan can select a different plan that better suits their health care needs.
If beneficiaries have preferred health care providers, it’s important to confirm that they are in-network for the selected plan.
Seniors can also re-examine their prescription drug coverage. Several factors play a role here.
Coverage & Costs for Prescription Medications
Annual enrollment is a time when seniors can join, switch or drop a Part D prescription drug plan. Medicare’s Plan Finder tool allows seniors to explore the options.
For beneficiaries who take one or more prescription medications on a regular basis, decisions about Part D can have a big impact on health outcomes and out-of-pocket costs. Before selecting prescription drug coverage, beneficiaries should make sure the plan they’re considering covers their existing prescriptions.
Seniors should also pay special attention to prescription drug formularies to try and forecast their out-of-pocket costs. If current medications are on a higher formulary tier under the plan they have or are considering, they will likely be required to pay more out of pocket.
New Year, New Coverage
The Medicare annual enrollment period offers seniors a valuable opportunity to tailor health coverage to their unique needs.
By understanding the available options and gathering the necessary information, seniors can make informed decisions that will positively impact their health and well-being in the coming year, while reducing stress, confusion and out-of-pocket costs.