I know you’re not used to premiums going down these days, but that’s what happened with some Medicare Advantage plans. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 13.1 million beneficiaries who had a Medicare Advantage plan saw their premiums drop by $44 in 2010.
Not surprisingly, more people have been enrolling in Advantage Medicare plans that replace original Medicare. A group of insurance companies led by UnitedHealth Group Inc. looked at the enrollment rates for these plans. They found enrollment was up by 10 percent.
There could be another reason driving the higher enrollment, too. According to an AARP Public Policy Institute analysis of a 2007 beneficiary survey, beneficiaries paid for just over half of their own health care. Medicare only paid for 49 percent. More people could be switching to Advantage plans because most of these plans add extra benefits over and above what original Medicare covers.
Before you switch, though, be sure of two things. First, confirm that all the doctors you need are covered by the Advantage plan. These plans usually have their own network of providers and if your doctor isn’t in that network, you’ll have no coverage to see her or him. You won’t have any coverage through original Medicare once you sign up for an Advantage plan. Second, be sure your medicines are covered. Most, but not all, Advantage plans do cover prescriptions. However, they may not pay for every prescription. Since that’s one of the biggest costs for beneficiaries, you don’t want to be stuck with no coverage for something you need for a chronic illness.