Fall is here, arriving this past week. That means football games, chilly nights, falling leaves, and that other familiar autumn ritual – Medicare open enrollment. Whether you’re completely satisfied with your current coverage or eager to make a change, this is the season when you really need to do your homework and make your choices. To help you do just that, we offer this very recent article that we discovered on the financial website Motley Fool. It doesn’t make any specific recommendations, but it does describe in broad terms what open enrollment is and what it allows you to do.
Open Enrollment Begins October 15th
Medicare plays an enormous role in American life, insuring more than 55 million Americans. “Most Americans turn to Medicare after their 65th birthdays to give them the assistance they need to cover their healthcare expenses,” says the Motley Fool report. “With estimates of total lifetime medical costs for retired couples soaring toward the $300,000 mark, you can’t afford not to make the most of the Medicare benefits to which you’re entitled.” For that reason, it’s essential that those covered by Medicare take advantage of open enrollment which begins October 15, 2018 and continues until December 7th. It’s the one time during the year when everyone has the opportunity to make key changes to their coverage, although technically it’s not the only one. As the article explains, “Other special periods apply when certain life events happen, such as if you move to a new area where your current plan doesn’t offer coverage or if you become eligible for other benefits such as Medicaid.”
(You can click here for a brief fact sheet from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, that gives a bare bones description of open enrollment. Also, the CMS Medicare website contains several links to helpful information concerning coverage rules and options.)
Changes Allowed During Open Enrollment
The Motley Fool article defines open enrollment as a seven-week period during which beneficiaries are given the opportunity to adjust the way that Medicare covers them. There are three general types of changes you can make:
- If you’re covered under traditional Medicare, you can move to a Medicare Advantage plan;
- If you’re covered under a Medicare Advantage plan, you can either change to a different Medicare Advantage plan, or you can move back to traditional Medicare;
- You can also make changes to your prescription drug coverage. This typically means either purchasing what’s called Part D prescription coverage to go along with your current plan or buying a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug benefits, as many do. You can also drop your existing drug coverage or add new drug coverage during open enrollment.
Whatever changes you make to your coverage will take effect on New Year’s Day 2019.
Your Biggest Goal during Open Enrollment
What should be your strategy during these critical open enrollment weeks? The Motley Fool article has a simple answer. “Ideally, open enrollment lets you tailor your Medicare coverage to minimize your total out-of-pocket healthcare costs” – in other words, to improve coverage and lower expenses. But beware of putting too much emphasis on economizing. “Many participants make the mistake of focusing only on paying the lowest premiums for their Medicare coverage,” the article warns, “but that’s only part of the equation.” While premiums for Medicare Part B are generally fixed, the costs of different Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans can vary widely. “Although a lower-premium plan can look like a good deal, the less comprehensive coverage it offers can end up making you pay more in total costs” through copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts.
“What looks like the ‘cheaper’ plan from the premium standpoint can end up actually being more costly,” says the Motley Fool analysis. “Conversely, more comprehensive plans might cost more in monthly premiums but end up with lower total costs.”
No matter what, you need to do your homework and select the plan that’s right for you, not the one that works for your brother in law or next-door neighbor. “The perfect plan for a relatively healthy person can be wholly inadequate for someone with a chronic condition,” says the article. “You can [also] go from needing no medications at all to having a large set of prescriptions if you suffer an illness during the course of a year. That’s why changing from year to year can make sense, and failing to do so can be a huge mistake.” If you’re just beginning to develop your open enrollment strategy but need some personal guidance, please give us a call here at AgingOptions so we can answer your questions and perhaps refer you to a trusted professional with Medicare experience to give you objective information.
A Truly Comprehensive Plan for Your Future
Speaking of good information, we also encourage you to take a broader look at your entire plan for retirement and begin now to gather the information that will help you fulfill your retirement dreams. Choosing the right medical coverage is just one piece of the puzzle. Is your financial plan also in order? Have you planned for where and how you want to live, not just now but in the years to come? Are your loved ones supportive of your retirement plans and do you have the proper legal framework in place? The only type of truly comprehensive retirement plan we know of that accomplishes all this is a LifePlan from AgingOptions. You’re invited to join Rajiv Nagaich and find out more about this breakthrough in retirement planning, at a LifePlanning Seminar near you. These highly popular events are information-packed and absolutely free.
For a complete calendar of upcoming LifePlanning Seminars, visit our Live Events page where you can register for the seminar of your choice. Don’t put it off! Instead, face the future with confidence through the power of an AgingOptions LifePlan. Age on!
(originally reported at www.kiplinger.com)