We’ve entered that time of year again when insurance changes and decisions are upon us. And during what has been a very challenging and different, (to say the least), year, these decisions are more crucial than ever.
Medicare open enrollment begins tomorrow, October 15th, and will last until December 7th. During this time period, individuals can review their current Medicare plan and make changes if needed. You do not need to sign up for Medicare each year but reviewing your plan and making adjustments and changes as needed to make sure your healthcare needs are met, is essential.
Some new changes to note for the 2021 coverage year include lower premium costs and increased benefits and plan options for Medicare Advantage recipients. Premiums will be at their lowest rate since 2007, and extra telehealth and supplemental benefits, such as in-home support, will be offered as well. But it’s important to review out-of-pocket costs with these plans, even though premiums could be low, as well as making sure your providers are in the coverage network. These plans are very localized as well, so review what options are offered in your specific area/zip code for coverage. *Medicare Advantage plans are a type of Medicare health plan offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide Part A and B benefits.
Medicare beneficiaries who have a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan should receive paperwork called “Evidence of Coverage” or “Annual Notice of Change” letters from your health plan showing coverage outlines and any changes that will occur. It’s very important to review these materials to make sure of any changes in the plan’s costs, providers, benefits, drug formularies, etc. so that if something is changing with your plan, you are aware of it and can make changes to your coverage if needed. These plans can change their benefits so it’s crucial to review your policy and any upcoming changes.
According to Medicare, you can make the following changes during the open enrollment period:
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan and vice versa.
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan or from one Part D prescription plan to another.
- Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D Plan) if you haven’t done so.
- Drop your Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.
Also, if you are not satisfied with your Medicare Advantage Plan, you can disenroll from that plan and join Original Medicare during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period. This disenrollment period is open from January 1st to February 14th of each year.
The Medicare website offers a Medicare Plan Finder where you can search for and compare health plans, benefits, coverage and estimated costs. You can also contact Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for information and questions.
You can also receive assistance and guidance in choosing coverage through your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). This resource provides one-on-one insurance counseling and support regarding Medicare benefits. Visit https://www.shiptacenter.org/ to find your local office.
MSAA’s My Health Insurance Guide is a helpful source for the MS community to find more information about insurance options and resources, in addition to the Medicare Planning and Multiple Sclerosis brochure that helps to outline important parts and questions about Medicare coverage.
This is an important time to review your plan’s policy and make changes if needed to ensure that you have the appropriate coverage for your healthcare needs.