It feels like we’ve been talking about it forever, but Medicare Annual Enrollment is finally here! From October 15 through December 7, the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is your chance to make changes to your current Medicare coverage. Whether you want to switch to a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, move back to Original Medicare (Parts A and B), or change your MA or Prescription Drug Plan (Part D), AEP is your chance. But, do you have to change your plan?
Do You Have to Make Changes during Annual Enrollment?
The short answer is no, you do not have to make any changes to your Medicare coverage during AEP. But, this eight-week period is the perfect time to review your current coverage and any changes expected in 2019.
If you do not make any changes during AEP, your current coverage simply renews automatically on January 1. While automatic renewal is great for ensuring beneficiaries never have a lapse in coverage, that convenience may cause some recipients to ignore Annual Enrollment. And with the changes Medicare experiences every year, you can never be sure that your current coverage will continue serving your needs.
Have your needs changed?
Before looking at your plan options, it’s a good idea to look at how your needs may have changed – or how you expect them to change next year. Answer these questions:
- Have your finances changed?
- Did you receive any new diagnoses in 2018?
- Do you have any new medications?
- Do you have any procedures planned for next year?
- Has your doctor advised that a condition is worsening?
Look at any items that may change your healthcare needs in the coming year to determine whether your coverage is ample.
Does Your Current Coverage Meet Your Needs?
If you have a Part D or MA plan, you should have received your plan’s Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) in September. Between these two documents, you’ll see everything you can expect from your plan in 2019.
Common plan changes outlined in the ANOC and/or EOC include:
- Cost changes, including premiums, co-pays, and deductibles
- Drug formulary
- Pharmacy networks
- Provider networks, including specialists and hospitals
Use the checklist above to “grade” how well your current plan meets your needs.
Are You Satisfied with Your Current Coverage?
It is entirely possible your plan looks great on paper, but in practice it just doesn’t work for you. From too much paperwork to struggling to find answers to simple inconvenience, if you wouldn’t recommend your plan to a friend, why keep it for yourself?
Medicare Advantage plans have been growing in popularity for years. The result has been incredible expansion, with many areas offering Medicare enrollees multiple MA plan options. If you aren’t happy with your current plan, it’s worth the time to see what else is available.
See the checklist above to help determine your current satisfaction levels.
Does Your Current Coverage Fit Your Budget?
One area where health coverage nearly always changes is cost. Review your ANOC to understand where your costs may be changing in 2019. Interestingly, many MA plans are seeing reductions in premiums and other out-of-pocket costs.
Determining costs requires looking at more than your monthly premiums. Co-pays, co-insurance, and yearly deductibles all contribute to your overall healthcare costs.
Original Medicare Costs in 2019
Original Medicare nearly always sees at least a small bump in prices from year to year. Medicare’s costs in 2019 include:
- Part A premium: $0 if you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes for 10 years; $240 if you paid taxes for 30 to 39 quarters; $437 if you paid taxes less than 30 quarters
- Part B premium: $135.50 is the standard premium
- Part A deductible: $1,364 per benefit period
- Part B deductible: $185 per year
For full 2019 cost details, please see Medicare Costs at a Glance.
Comparing Your Medicare Plan Options
Last month, we walked you through reviewing your Medicare plan options. But this can be a confusing process. If you still have questions, it may help to talk to one of our licensed agents. The team at Medicare Solutions has one driving mission: help Medicare recipients get the coverage that best fits their individual needs. For one-on-one assistance, call us toll-free at 855-350-8101. To prepare for the call, just create a list of your current medications, your list of preferred doctors, and any chronic conditions you have.