When you were a kid, you knew Christmas was coming when the letter carrier brought the toy catalog. As an adult, your mail still offers clues that something big is coming. Each fall and throughout Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), that means news from and about your Medicare plan.
Unfortunately, you likely also receive more than your fair share of mail from private insurers. Throw in TV commercials and online ads, and it’s no wonder many beneficiaries suffer Medicare burnout. It’s important to remember, though, that the AEP is for your benefit, designed to ensure you get the best coverage available at a price that fits your budget. But you only have a few more weeks (AEP ends on December 7), so now is the time to compare and review your plan options.
Medicare Changes Expected in 2019
When it comes to health insurance, one thing you can pretty much always expect is that your plan will change from year to year. For 2019, Medicare predicts a few fairly significant changes.
Projected Changes to Medicare Advantage Plans
The popularity of Medicare Advantage (MA) plans has grown steadily for years. In 2017, around 33 percent of Medicare recipients had an MA plan. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expects that number to jump to 36.7 percent in 2019.
As more people join MA plans, insurers expand covered services and lower out-of-pocket costs for plan recipients. For example, the average premium in 2015 was $32.91. Projections for 2019 place average monthly premiums at $28.00.
Finally, CMS expects Medicare Advantage plan choice to continue expanding, with most counties getting an addition five MA plan options in 2019.
Projected Changes to Medicare Part D Plans
For the second year in a row, Part D premiums as a whole are expected to fall slightly. You can expect plans to become more competitive in regard to all out-of-pocket cost in an effort to attract and retain customers. That means a plan that was out of your price range this year might be more affordable in 2019.
Medicare Cost Plans Being Phased Out
In many counties, Medicare cost plans are going away. If yours is one of them, the plan must notify you ahead of time. But, if you don’t choose a new plan during Annual Enrollment, your current plan either automatically enrolls you in a Medicare Advantage plan or in Original Medicare (options vary according to each plan).
Getting Started with Annual Enrollment
Your first step should be reviewing your current healthcare needs, as well as how you expect those needs to change next year. Make a list of your providers, including physicians, preferred pharmacy, labs, and clinics. Next, list any prescribed medications you currently take.
What about expectations for 2019? Do you have any procedures scheduled? Has your doctor warned you that a condition is worsening, or that you may be starting a new medication? Do you expect a change in your finances? All of these play a role in determining your coverage needs.
Use the checklist above to help determine your coverage needs.
Compare Your Medicare Plan Options
Your Medicare plan, whether MA or Part D, should have sent you the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) in September. This document details all of the changes you can expect from your plan in the coming year, including changes to:
- Service area
It is almost guaranteed that your plan will have at least a few changes. Part D plans may add or remove medications from their drug formularies. If you have an MA plan, you can expect physicians and other providers to enter and leave the network. And, of course, costs change nearly every year.
Reviewing the ANOC is the first step toward determining whether your current plans will meet your needs next year.
You should also have received your Evidence of Coverage (EOC) before the beginning of AEP. This document offers even more detail about costs and coverage in the coming year. Between the ANOC and the EOC, and your own understanding of your changing healthcare needs, you should be able to determine whether your current coverage is ample.
My Coverage Is Great, Why Should I Care About AEP?
After reviewing your ANOC and EOC, you may decide that your current coverage meets your needs. If so, do you really need to worry about Annual Enrollment? In a word: Yes.
In the same way that your plan changes from year to year, all Medicare plans change. That means that the plan that worked best for you in 2018 isn’t necessarily the best plan for you in 2019. For example, many MA plans are expanding coverage to include more services not covered under Original Medicare. Your area may now have an MA plan that covers dental care, routine vision exams, and even fitness plans.
Talk to an Expert
If working your way through all of these options feels so confusing that you don’t know where to begin, Medicare Solutions is here to help. Our licensed sales agents will ask you a few questions to get an idea of your coverage needs. Then, we’ll describe your various options and answer any questions you have. Call us toll-free at 855-350-8101 to get started.
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