With Medicare enrollment in full effect, current members and prospective buyers are faced with challenging important decisions. Choices made today could determine how well your health needs are addressed for years to come. If you’re unsure which plan is right for you or are unaware of what new plans could provide better coverage, we’re here to show you how take advantage of all options during Medicare’s annual election period (AEP).
The AEP is the only time of the year that you can sign up or switch your Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Part D plan. If you’re not satisfied with your current plan and miss the chance to switch, you have to wait for the next AEP.
If you have original Medicare with a Medicare supplement plan, you can switch to a Medicare Advantage plan but note that you’ll have set list of doctors you’ll have to choose from.
Assess health needs
Begin by assessing what needs you currently satisfy by listing your current medications, doctors, specialists and compare those to what areas are lacking. Ask yourself:
- Has there been a dramatic change in health care needs over the last year?
- Are all needs covered under your current plan, and if not, which ones are dire?
- Will all drugs needed to sustain health be covered in 2019?
- How is your current coverage working out?
- Do you need to find a less expensive option?
From there, you’ll know whether you need to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan or a Part D plan.
Assess drug costs and physician access
Patients want greater doctor accessibility and lower drug costs. Since not all plans offer this flexibility, you’ll want to compare plans carefully. Ask yourself:
- Do I intend on taking extended trips this year? Some plans may not cover emergency hospital visits in other states or countries.
- Does your current plan offer access to preferred pharmacies, or are medication costs the reason you choose one pharmacy over another?
Some Medicare recipients may entertain adding concierge medicine to their current plan if the frequency of visits are expected to grow incrementally over the next few years.
Will I receive solid customer service?
Nothing frustrates us more than dealing with customer service that treats you poorly. When calling customer support, how are you treated? Are questions answered fully, or are you passed to other agents who, in turn, pass you to another?
Few believe customer service matters. If your current carrier offers little help when asking plan-related questions, or you are left feeling more lost than before your phone call, maybe it’s time to shop around for better service.
Know what’s covered–and what’s not
I discussed how to avoid costly Medicare mistakes in August. One component we touched on is that Medicare doesn’t cover everything. And when they do cover specific events, it’s not without red-tape and long wait times.
During this AEP, I encourage you to shop around for other options that cover events Medicare does not. Combining coverage may spare stress later down the road; for example, adding concierge medical care may afford those who need more frequent doctor visits the opportunity to avoid excessive wait times while paying nothing out-of-pocket for minor procedures and basic services.
P.S. Remember that AEP for the coming year ends on December 7th.. From our Medicare Playbook, to our informative blog, we’re here to provide the information you need to avoid costly mistakes that could leave gaps in your coverage.
Wiley Long is President of Medigap Advisors, and a passionate advocate for consumer-based solutions that will improve price transparency and lower health insurance and medical costs for people in the Medicare system.