Medicare Open Enrollment
Q: Should I change my plan during Medicare Open Enrollment?
by: Barbara Fradkin
A: This is a great question, and one that comes up every year. The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period lasts from October 15 until December 7. The changes you make during this period take effect on January 1 of the following year.
Why make a change at all? Your situation may have changed! According to Mike Kowalchuk, owner of Viera Insurance Professionals, Medicare Open Enrollment is an important time to review your current plan and see if other available plans might be a better fit. He is fond of saying, “When it comes Medicare, “one size definitely does not fit all.”
Lots of choices
The dizzying array of Medicare choices can cause information overload for even the smartest seniors. You need to understand your coverage, the difference between Part A and Part B, (don’t forget Part D – your prescription plan) and Medi-gap. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan- that is Part C! See what I mean about the confusion?
Every year, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) comes out with a new list of insurance plans approved for your Medi-gap, prescription plans and Part C. In Brevard County alone, there are 26 companies offering 10 different Medi-gap plans, 32 different plans for Medicare Part C and 28 plans for Medicare Part D. The policies are all structured through Medicare guidelines, but with differences.
You can do this on your own, starting with the CMS website. But brace yourself: it’s no simple trick to understand the differences and cost. Are you a snowbird? Travel outside the country? If you choose a Part C network-based plan, make sure your doctor is included. Unique prescription plans vary with your needs, medication types and of course, the cost. Medi-gap plans all have the same coverage- just not the same price.
And be careful about leaving your personal information with the websites you are visiting. This authorizes the agents of the companies to call you (and call you) to sell their product. This is how you can get the wrong coverage.
Or you can go easy on yourself.
Starting in September, One Senior Place will host several Medicare Open Enrollment educational seminars, where you can pick up a free copy of the booklet, “Medicare with Confidence.” You can sit down with an independent insurance expert, get your options and find your best price for every plan available in our area. For free. If you’re chomping at the bit to do it now, just call me at 321-751-6771.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging. Barbara Fradkin is a Social Worker, Certified Care Manager and the Director of One Senior Place, Viera.