In the 1960s, a number of members of the Baby Boomers generation said they wanted to change the world. Years later, they are. According to data from the Pew Research Group, approximately 10,000 Americans reach the age of 65 every day. At the current rates of population growth and aging, nearly 18% of the citizens in the United States will reach age 65 or older by 2030. This means tens of millions of people will be on Medicare health insurance.
Medicare makes a huge difference in the lives of countless elder adults, and many seniors feel like celebrating when they finally become eligible to join the ranks of government health care. However, there is much more to enrolling than simply reaching the age of 65.
Qualifying to be on Medicare is not a simple one-time decision for most people. If you’re already over the age of 65, you probably know that Medicare health insurance includes a number of different types of coverage and benefits, such as supplemental plans, extra prescription discounts, and so on. When you sign up for your original Medicare policy, you get to specify what types of additional protection to have in your policy.
Then each year, the insurance companies offering supplemental plans are allowed to make changes to their Medicare programs and policies, and those changes can impact how much you pay out-of-pocket. The adjusted policies may raise the prices for your monthly premiums, deductibles, and medications, and could affect which doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies are available in your provider network.
Because your policy and the amount of coverage it contains can change from year to year, it is a good idea to annually evaluate your current Medicare plan to make sure it still fits your needs and budget. That is why Medicare offers an “open enrollment” season every autumn.
Take time to evaluate your policy
The Medicare open enrollment time frame is an annual period when current Medicare users are allowed to make changes in their existing health care plans. Open enrollment is from October 15th through December 7th every year.
After evaluating your current policy’s coverage and comparing it to other available options, you may find a plan that is better suited for what you want. In that case, you can then decide to switch to, drop, or add a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or Part D plan. If you use the open enrollment period to choose a different Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, your new coverage will begin on January 1.
When people decide to switch to a new type of Medicare policy during open enrollment, the reasons typically include saving money on premiums or deductibles, getting better prescription drug coverage, having access to doctors in a certain provider network, or simply wanting a more comprehensive benefits package.
If you already are enrolled in a supplemental Medicare plan and are happy with what it provides, you can choose not to make any changes in your coverage at all. Of course, that assumes the same policy will continue to be offered by your insurance company. If your plan is being discontinued, you should have received an official nonrenewal notice from your carrier prior to the open enrollment period.
However, even if you want to keep your current coverage intact, be aware that your premium fees and benefits may have changed from last year. It is important that you examine the details on your updated policy, and make sure you understand any modifications being added. If the benefits have changed substantially, you may want to reconsider staying with that plan and start looking at better options before locking yourself in for another year.
Let a qualified elder law attorney guide you.
Given the many types of Medicare coverage and available programs – and knowing how important your health care plan is – you should consider talking to a knowledgeable advisor about making the best choices.
The experienced attorneys at TuckerAllen provide Medicaid planning assistance & smart solutions to help seniors with their decisions about Medicare coverage and long-term health care options. We also can advise you on other later-in-life concerns you probably have, such as wills, trusts, Power of Attorney documents, and comprehensive estate plans to protect you and your family.