Medicare’s open enrollment period for 2017 is coming up. You will be able to review and make changes from October 15th to December 7th 2016, for changes effective January 1, 2017. Clients and readers often ask us “Why should I review my Medicare plan? I think it has been okay so far.” or “How do I review my Medicare plan? Who can I trust to explain my Medicare plan and give me good advice on my Medicare options and specific situation instead of getting sold something that’s not right for me?” We’re here to offer answers!
Why Should I Review My Medicare Plan Annually?
Your current plan might seem okay to you, so you might not want to go through the trouble of reviewing your plan. But, here’s why you always should:
- You may be paying more than you need to be. Several studies have indicated that less than 10% of people pick the Medicare plan that’s most economical for them.
- Plans change each year. The average Part D drug premium will rise to a projected $41.34 a month in 2017, just above $40 per month for the first time (analysis by Avalere Health). Your premiums and other costs may be going up (for example, in 2016 the 3.5 million Americans on the AARP MedicareRx Preferred Plan experienced a premium hike from $602 to $749, while another AARP plan saw even more dramatic 26% increases and two popular Humana plans increased by 8-17%). In other cases, drug coverage/formularies may change and the costs of specific medications may mean you pay more even if the premium stays the same.
- Your medical situation changes. When you chose your plan (especially if you have not reviewed it in a while) you may have been on less medication or different medications. You may have received a new diagnosis which is likely to result in needing expensive medications, or perhaps you’ve been fortunate to reduce some medications or their prices have gone down making a different plan more appropriate.
Why So Many People Pick the Wrong Plan (and How Not To)
The plan choices can be confusing and overwhelming. A quick search in our Florida zip code reveals 47 current plans. Plan options include both standard Medicare with a stand-alone Part D drug plan and Medicare Advantage plans with drug coverage or without. An example of why this can be so problematic comes from one study in Georgia in which people taking the same dosage of Fosamax (an osteoporosis drug) had annual expenses ranging from $2,661 to $9,032, depending on which Medicare Advantage plan they chose (study by Plan Prescriber). The same group did a study of over 3,000 customers searching Medicare Advantage plans and found less than 10% selected the plan with the lowest out-of-pocket costs.
This happens for many reasons including following the advice of salespeople who focus on particular plans, choosing plans with well-known names and good marketing, looking solely at plan premiums, and keeping your current plan without looking at options.
In order to pick the best plan, gather all of your information (here’s a great video from Medicare about getting started–see all five videos for full steps) to use the Medicare plan finder. You’ll need: your Medicare card, zip code, list of prescription drugs including dose and frequency, and preferred pharmacies. It also helps to know if you get special help with Medicare coverage and how you get your coverage (or use the personal search and this information will already be known). You can have a friend or family member help with this search.
Even better, you may want to enlist the help of an expert such as one of our care managers, who can answer your questions and help you understand all of the various aspects of Medicare and your health care (including how programs like Medicaid and VA benefits work and coordinating these options).
Mark your calendars to make sure you take a look at your options between October 15th and December 7th. If you need help, contact our Medicare experts about setting up a consultation/review.*
*We do not sell any insurance products. We provide fee-for-service advice and personalized recommendations based on the data and our extensive healthcare advocacy experience.
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