Based on industry studies, the majority of those with Medicare coverage are overspending every year, either through excessive premiums or through unanticipated out-of-pocket charges. Individuals oftentimes purchase Medicare Part C (Advantage) and Part D (prescription drug) plans that do not match up with their actual healthcare needs. (Votava, Katy, “Medicare Users Should Give the Coverage a Check-Up Each Fall,” Investment News, September 19, 2016, page 13)
All plans announce their new pricing and benefits in the fall every year, but unfortunately, most individuals overlook these notices until the new plan year has started, which means that it is too late to make a change, at least until the following year. (Votava, Katy, “Medicare Users Should Give the Coverage a Check-Up Each Fall,” Investment News, September 19, 2016, page 13) Even though the premium being paid might not be ideal, the bigger issues are often related to out-of-pocket expenses and coverage. These might include higher deductibles, increased use of co-insurance (as opposed to co-pays), or medications being placed into higher, more-costly drug tiers. Some medications might even no longer be covered under the plan. To avoid any unexpected, hidden surprises in the upcoming year, now is the perfect time of year to perform the annual check-up on your Medicare coverage. In addition to helping make sure that you have the correct coverage when the need arises, this annual review will hopefully ensure that you are best positioned from a financial/cost standpoint as well.
The enrollment period runs from October 15th until December 7th, with new coverage taking effect on January 1st. Don’t wait until the last minute … Enrollment systems can get a little overloaded, which might lead to you starting the new plan year without your new insurance card in hand.
Many individuals don’t know where to start, so here is a simple checklist that you might find helpful:
- Compile a detailed listing of all medications currently being taken. Make sure to correctly spell the medication’s name and include the dosage prescribed.
- Prepare a complete list of your healthcare providers (doctors, physical therapists, labs, etc.) … Include name, address, and phone number for each.
- Closely review your current plan’s new benefit summary for the upcoming year. This should be sent to each plan beneficiary by the end of September. In addition to checking the new premium amount, you will want to make note of all plan features (co-pays, co-insurance, deductibles, etc.) to determine if there are any increases for the new plan year. You should also contact the company or go online to find out if any of your current medications’ coverage will experience an increase in cost or, even worse, be discontinued.
- Take the time to shop other plans, because you might find another that is better for your current needs.
There are several sources available to assist both individuals and their caregivers, as they try to review and better understand their options. Eldercare.gov, a public service of the US Administration on Aging, can help you get in touch with these support services. Visit this site online, or contact them directly by phone at 1-800-677-1116, between the hours of 9:00am and 8:00pm, Mondays thru Fridays.
To help clients better understand their options, our Birmingham and Huntsville offices are holding information sessions with Medicare specialists. There is still time to register for one of the Birmingham sessions. See the information below or visit the Bridgeworth Calendar.
Bridgeworth, LLC is a registered investment advisor.
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