The time has come to prepare for the open enrollment period for Medicare. Starting October 15, you will have 54 days to evaluate your current coverage and medical needs, and make changes that benefit you by 2020. The last day to make changes is December 7.
During the open enrollment period you can decide if you want to change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, or vice versa. You can choose a new MA plan and decide if you want to enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan or change plans, if you already get your medicines through one of these policies.
You should pay attention to all parts of Medicare: Part A covers care in hospitals and palliative care centers, as well as some services in skilled nursing facilities that you receive after you leave the hospital. Part B includes visits to the doctor and other outpatient services. Part C is Medicare Advantage, a combination of Parts A and B, and most plans also cover Part D, which helps pay for prescription drugs.
Medicare experts say that the most important thing is not to ignore the open enrollment period.
“People tend not to check their options every year because it involves a lot of work,” says Tricia Neuman, senior vice president and director of the Medicare policy program at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. However, striving will be worth it.
Neuman has some tips on how to proceed: don’t focus only on the plan premiums. That’s the easy part. Premiums are not the best indication of what your out-of-pocket costs will be during the year.
Check if your doctors are in the plan’s network you are considering, because consulting with someone outside the network will be more expensive. Make sure your MA or Part D coverage covers all the medications you take. If you need a drug that is not covered or is not considered “preferable,” this could involve a out-of-pocket cost. Copayments differ between plans, so be careful and pay attention to what the costs for 2020 will be.
For the first time in a decade, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) modernized their plan search website . There is a new home page of medicare.gov, which will guide you through enrollment. You will have to make fewer clicks to find what you need, there are simpler comparisons between Original Medicare and MA plans, as well as more complete information about the differences between Part D options. The site also includes a cost calculator.
Another new feature for 2020 is that Medicare Advantage plans can pay telehealth benefits nationwide. Virtual consultations with doctors and other health care providers will now be available to all Medicare beneficiaries.
In addition, CMS continues to increase the availability of additional Medicare Advantage services, especially for 73% of beneficiaries who have chronic health problems. These benefits range from home food delivery, transportation services to medical appointments and nutrition counseling, to improvements to home security. Not all MA plans offer these benefits, so pay attention to coverage descriptions on the plan search website.
You can also get personalized help as you decide what is best for you to enroll in a plan. Medicare.gov has an online chat feature available during the open enrollment period. There is also the Medicare information line, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The monthly premiums of Medicare Advantage plans are expected to be reduced in 2020 to an average of $ 23. Similarly, Part D premiums for prescription drugs are also expected to drop to an average of $ 30 per month. Premiums and out-of-pocket costs for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans vary depending on the coverage offered by the plans and the area where the beneficiary lives. CMS have not yet announced the premiums and deductibles of Parts A and B.