Preparing for Medicare open enrollment

If you’re already on Medicare, you may be under the mistaken impression that you’re done managing all the aspects of your health care. On the contrary, once you’ve enrolled in Medicare and have begun receiving benefits, you’ll want to keep a close watch on both your health and your health-related spending by preparing for Medicare open enrollment. This is to ensure that you’re not paying too much for services you don’t need.

Did you know that once each year, the federal government allows Medicare users to reevaluate part of their coverage? It’s true, and it’s an opportunity that you should take full advantage of. While you’re pretty much stuck with your Original Medicare Part A and Part B coverage (which assists you with inpatient and outpatient costs, respectively), you’re not necessarily stuck with your Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. During Medicare’s Open Enrollment period, you are free to compare your Advantage or Part D plan against other plans available on the open market. Another plan might have a lower cost, or provide a wider range of prescription drugs covered. If you find an Advantage or a Part D plan that better fits your needs, you’re allowed to add, switch, or even drop coverage without penalty. When is this Open Enrollment? It starts every October 15th and concludes every December 7th.

Reassess your health needs

As the Open Enrollment dates approach, you’ll likely receive a ton of mail and email informing you that Company XYZ’s health care plan is superior to the one you’ve got. How do you know if it actually is superior, though? You’ll need to ask yourself some basic questions, starting with your overall health.

Has your health changed since you signed up for Medicare? If you dealt with unexpected health problems and didn’t receive the quality of care you expected, then it might be time to shop around for a better plan. You should also ask yourself about your healthcare financial situation. For example, did you initially enroll in an expensive Medicare plan as a safety net for unforeseen health issues? If you’ve been healthy, you might consider switching to a lower cost plan during Open Enrollment. Costs can also be an issue if you’re saddled with a bunch of co-payments or high deductibles from your original Medicare plan. Open Enrollment is a great time to shop around for more affordable options.

Reassess your coverage

Don’t forget to reassess your health care provider network, too. If you traveled a lot and originally chose a Medicare plan that enabled you to access health care services in various locations, you may want to consider a different option if your travel has since tapered off. Naturally, the opposite is true as well. If you lived a relatively local lifestyle when you first signed up for Medicare but now find yourself traveling frequently, you may wish to switch to a more flexible provider network during Open Enrollment.

Finally, don’t forget to reassess your prescription drug situation. You may have opted out of Medicare’s Part D prescription drug plan when you first became eligible for Medicare. Since then, has your health changed to the point where you now rely on expensive prescription medications? Even if you are already a Part D beneficiary, it’s still worth doing a bit of research during Open Enrollment to make sure that your current plan is the best plan. Part D providers routinely change their formularies (i.e., the list of drugs they cover on a particular plan) as well as costs and availability of services and coverage. You also may want to look into Medicare Advantage, which offers built-in prescription drug benefits that could save you money over a Part D plan in certain cases. You can contact one of our representatives to help you navigate the many choices for Part D and Advantage plans. You can request to speak to someone here on the site or by calling 1-(855)-MEDIGAP.

As you can see, there are several factors to consider regarding your health care, even if you are already receiving Medicare benefits and satisfied with the coverage to this point. It’s in your best interest to periodically assess both your health situation and your health plan to make sure that you’re not paying too much — or receiving too little. For optimum results, start your self-assessment a few weeks prior to Medicare’s annual October 15 Open Enrollment kickoff.

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