By: Steve Vernon
Are you ready for Medicare’s Open Enrollment? It’s coming soon, running from October 15 through December 7. If you’re age 65 or older and are eligible for Medicare, you have a golden opportunity to choose wisely regarding your coverage or correct any previous mistakes you might have made regarding your Medicare elections. You also have a chance to upgrade your coverage for 2020 and potentially save lots of money.
If you’re Medicare-eligible, your mailbox will most likely be filled in the upcoming weeks with solicitations for policies to supplement your Medicare coverage. As you’re going through this mail, keep in mind the following situations that might help you avoid or correct a mistake or upgrade your coverage during Medicare Open Enrollment.
Buy coverage to supplement Medicare
If you don’t think you need a medical insurance policy to supplement Medicare, you’re making a big mistake! Medicare has significant deductibles and copayments, and it doesn’t cover services commonly covered by many medical insurance plans.
You can supplement Medicare with a Medicare Supplement Plan (aka Medigap plan), which pays for Original Medicare’s deductibles and copayments. Or, you can select a Medicare Advantage Plan, which delivers integrated health care in a managed care environment.
Both types of coverage have their pros and cons, so be sure to do your homework to see which type of policy might work best for you. Now’s the time to get this right!
If you take several prescription drugs
If you’re spending a lot of money on prescription drugs – or think you will be – it’s well worth your time to compare your potential or current Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan to other policies. “Shopping for a new Part D drug plan is an overlooked step that many people can take to significantly reduce their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs,’ says Diane Omdahl. Omdahl is the president of 65 Incorporated, which provides expert, unbiased consulting on Medicare policies.
If you have a new diagnosis or new prescriptions
If you were diagnosed in 2019 with a serious illness, or if your doctor has prescribed new, expensive, prescription drugs, it may be a good time to shop your Part D Prescription Drug Plan. Your out-of-pocket costs can vary considerably depending on your plan’s features and the specific drugs you take.
If you participate or plan to participate in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you might also want to see if the plan is the best choice for you considering your new health condition. You may want to see if your plan’s network includes specialists for your condition. And if you’ve been admitted into an assisted living facility, there are Medicare Advantage plans that are specifically designed to serve residents of these facilities.
If you plan to travel overseas in 2020
Be aware that standard Medicare and most Medicare Advantage Plans generally don’t cover services you receive outside the U.S. However, some, but not all, Medicare Supplement plans do provide coverage overseas. If you’re planning to travel overseas during 2020, you might want to investigate Medicare Supplement plans that include overseas coverage.
Warning: After your Initial Open Enrollment period, in most states, you’ll need to satisfy medical underwriting to switch to a new Medicare Supplement plan. This means that if you have a pre-existing condition, you could be denied coverage or charged a higher premium.
If your existing plan has substantially changed
If you participated in either a Medicare Supplement Plan or Medicare Advantage Plan in 2019, and if your plan is making changes for 2020, they must notify you of these changes in writing. Carefully read any mail that your provider sends you this fall. If they’ve increased copayments or reduced coverage, it might pay to shop around for a better plan.
During Open Enrollment, you can always switch your Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D Prescription Drug Plan. As noted above, if you want to switch to a new Medicare Supplement Plan, in most states, you might need to satisfy medical underwriting.
Because Medicare has made significant changes to its online Plan Finder, it might take longer than in previous years to do your shopping for the Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D Prescription Drug Plan that works best for you. But don’t skip doing your homework!
It’s a very good use of your time and money to shop for the best type of coverage to complement Medicare, given your health status. You can potentially save a lot of money, and it might even keep you alive and healthy!