MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA– Every year, many Medicare beneficiaries make mistakes during open enrollment that could cost them hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year. Today medicareresources.org released tips to help consumers avoid costly mistakes while evaluating and selecting Medicare coverage.
“It may be tempting to simply let your plan renew, but if you don’t spend a little time comparing your options, you may be missing opportunities to save money,” said Louise Norris, a health policy analyst for medicareresources.org. “Doing a little research during open enrollment can help ensure you don’t pay too much in premiums, or miss out on a plan that would lower your out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy.”
Here are more strategies to keep in mind:
Compare your options during Medicare open enrollment.
Most Medicare beneficiaries do not switch plans during Medicare open enrollment. More troubling is the fact that seven out of 10 beneficiaries didn’t even compare their coverage options during a recent open enrollment period.
“It’s entirely possible the coverage you have will continue to be your best option in 2023,” Norris said. “But so much can change in a year – both in terms of coverage options and changes in your own needs – that it’s always worth taking a fresh look at the available options.”
Medicare open enrollment – also known as the annual election period – runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, and it’s a designated time to:
Switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage – or vice versa.
Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, or from one Medicare Part D drug plan to another.
Enroll in a Part D plan if you didn’t enroll when you were first eligible. (Although a penalty may apply if you haven’t maintained continuous creditable drug coverage from another source.)
Medicare open enrollment is not a guaranteed-issue opportunity to enroll in or change Medigap plans, which provide supplemental insurance coverage for Original Medicare’s out-of-pocket costs. Beneficiaries can apply for Medigap coverage any time, but eligibility can generally be based on the person’s medical history if they’re applying after their initial six-month enrollment window has ended.
Consider changes in your own situation.
If your medical or financial situation changed over the past year, it’s likely your coverage needs have also changed.
You may need a plan that better fits your budget, and reviewing the available options for 2023 could reveal a plan that costs less but still meets your needs. Or, you may find you’re now willing and able to spend more for more robust coverage than your current plan provides. Medicare open enrollment provides the chance to make that change. A change in your health status or the prescription drugs you are taking could also prompt you to look at a plan with different benefits.
Look beyond the premium.
When comparing new Medicare coverage options, many enrollees will be looking for changes in plan premiums, but premiums shouldn’t be a consumer’s only focus. Along with premiums, you should also consider a plan’s out-of-pocket costs, including copayments, deductibles and coinsurance costs.
This is especially true when it comes to prescription drugs. You can use Medicare’s plan finder tool to see how each plan will cover any medications that you’re already taking.
“One of the most important things people can do is go online and compare how plans cover their prescription drugs,” said Jenny Chumbley Hogue, an analyst for medicareresources.org.
Don’t assume your provider networks and drug costs will stay the same.
Along with premium changes, provider networks for these plans and prescription drug costs may also change, meaning your doctors and preferred pharmacy might not continue to be in-network with your current plan.
“If you use an out-of-network pharmacy, you may end up having to pay the full price for your medication,” says Chumbley Hogue.
Find more detailed information about Medicare open enrollment in the Medicare Open Enrollment 2023 Guide.