It's that time of year again. The leaves are changing colors, the temperature is getting colder and you are looking into your Medicare policies for the upcoming year. Yes, you read that correctly.

While researching and deciding on the best Medicare plan for 2018 may not be the most exciting aspect of fall, it’s definitely one of the most important. Whether you’re new to Medicare or have been enrolled in the program for decades, it’s crucial that you take a look at your plan each year to make sure it’s still in line with your needs.

All the fine print and medical jargon can make this task seem overwhelming, but rest assured, we’re here to help with a list of some of the most important things to consider during this year’s fall Medicare open enrollment period.

What can I change and when?

The Medicare Fall Open Enrollment period runs from October 15 through December 7. Your selected plan will become effective on January 1 of the following year.

This is generally the only time of year that you can switch from Medicare Parts A and B, sometimes called original Medicare, to a Medicare Part C, also known as a Medicare Advantage Plan. You can switch out your Medicare Advantage plan or Part D prescription drug plan for a new one with a different insurer during this time as well.

This is different from the initial Medicare Enrollment period, which lasts seven months around the month of your 65th birthday.

Do I need to change at all?

For some of you the answer will be no, but it’s still worth looking at your policy to make sure you have the same coverage you signed up for. Each year you should receive a mailed copy of your policy’s Annual Notice of Change or Evidence of Coverage if you have Medicare Parts C or D. As a general rule, read and file every piece of mail you get from your insurer so that you have all the information needed on hand come fall open enrollment season.

If you find out that your coverage has changed, your premiums have skyrocketed or your deductible is higher than you’d like, you are free to shop around. You can even use Medicare’s Plan Finder website to compare plans and enroll in the one that’s best for you.

Even if you are satisfied with the terms of your Advantage Plan or Part D prescription drug plan, we recommend you take a peek at what else is out there. You may find a plan that works for you and your money even better.

How can my current health situation affect my coverage?

A 2015 study found that people in need of long-term care, such as prolonged nursing home, memory care or hospital stays were moving away from Medicare Advantage plans.  The researchers found that 17% of people using long-term nursing home care switched to Medicare Parts A and B the year after entering a nursing facility, while only 3% swapped plans in the opposite direction.

This is a great example of your changing health situation having an impact on the kind of coverage you need. For people who are healthy and active, a Medicare Advantage plan might be a great, lower-cost option, but if you have a major medical condition, private insurers’ rates may be too much to handle. It’s important to be honest with your financial advisor about your medical history when deciding on a plan so they can help steer you toward the best plan for your specific needs.

How do I change my policy?

If you’re currently covered under original Medicare and want to opt into Part C, you can do so through that plan’s insurance provider. Policy and contact information can be found on various insurers’ websites. If you’re looking to switch your policy back to Parts A & B, you can do so through Medicare.gov or by phone at 1-800-MEDICARE.

If it seems like there are too many options to choose from or you need help deciding on what to do this open enrollment season, be sure to contact your financial advisor and trusted team of specialists to make the best decision for your physical and financial future.

 

 Medicare 101

Part A Covers inpatient stays in hospitals, nursing facilities and other medical institutions. No premiums, provided you’ve worked 10 years before enrolling.
Part B Usually covers outpatient care and supplies (such as doctor’s visits, surgeries and wheelchairs), but requires a premium payment.
Part C Also known as a Medicare Advantage Plan. Used in lieu of Parts A & B and provided by Medicare-approved private insurance companies. Some plans will also include prescription coverage
(Part D), but coverages and costs will vary with each.
Part D Prescription drug coverage, which may be included in certain
Part C plans, but will need to be purchased separately if using original Medicare (Parts A & B). While Part D is optional, if you decide later on to add prescription drug coverage, you may be charged a late-addition penalty.

 

Brent Muller

Brent Muller

Senior Vice President, Financial Advisor

ChFC®, Series 7 Securities Registration,1 Series 66 Advisory Registration, † Insurance License Brent has been advising Wealth Enhancement Group clients since 2007. As a believer in the power of teamwork, Brent often leverages the vast knowledge and resources of Wealth Enhancement Group to provide great service and smart strategies to his clients. Specializing in values-driven planning and retirement income planning, he takes pride in his ability to listen...Read More