A majority (55 percent) of Medicare beneficiaries believe their health benefits will stay the same in 2010, according to the “Medicare Beneficiary Insights” poll by Suffolk University and Silverlink Communications. The poll also showed that 85 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are not currently planning to switch plans this year, and the majority will spend only minimal time (two hours or less) researching health-plan options.
But experts say it isn’t wise to blindly re-enroll in existing Medicare plans. Medicare and its private sector plans typically make annual changes to medical and prescription benefits, coverage limits, consumer premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Current users and new enrollees alike should take the time to review plan options in order to get the best coverage possible.
Make sure you know current enrollment dates. For 2009, the window is Nov. 15 through Dec. 31. Those eligible for Medicare can review and, if necessary, adjust their Medicare coverage, which consists of traditional Medicare or private-sector plan options licensed to operate in Medicare; Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D. If you do not choose new coverage, you will be automatically re-enrolled in your previous coverage.
To help you evaluate your options, Chris Hakim, the Director of eHealthMedicare.com, encourages people to answer these questions:
Does my coverage match my changing health care needs?
“If you’re managing a chronic condition, like diabetes, heart disease or cancer,” says Hakim, “make sure your coverage keeps pace with your needs for new or existing medications. You also want to be sure you can continue to see your primary-care physician or specialist.” Hakim also recommends that if you’re undergoing elective surgery in the coming year, make sure it’s covered in your existing plan or your coverage.
In many cases, spouses carry the same plan. If, however, your health care needs changed this year, or if your spouse’s needs changed, be sure to review your coverage. “If you’re used to getting insurance from an employer, you’re likely to think of your health insurance as a family policy where you’re all on one plan. But Medicare allows you and your spouse to have different plans that are ‘right sized’ for each of your individual needs,” says Hakim. Choosing the right plan for your individual needs can help you save money.
Will I be able to retain my current doctors?
Check with your primary care physician, specialists and your private plan to make sure you can continue to see your doctors. Medicare’s contracted networks of doctors and hospitals are subject to change, so find out if your doctor will be in the plan.
Will my premiums and deductibles increase?
Traditional Medicare (Parts A and B), private sector plans in the Medicare Advantage program (Part C), and the Prescription Drug (Part D) program are likely to see changes in 2010. They might result in savings – or additional costs – based on the coverage you select. Make sure you understand how these changes affect you.
Get the right prescription drug coverage. Medicare Part D provides coverage for name-brand and generic prescriptions. Review your current medications with your doctor and ask about potential medication changes for next year. Then review Part D coverage to make sure it covers what you need.
The difference between picking a plan that’s right for you and one that isn’t could be thousands of dollars per year. Take the time now to study your choices so you can get the coverage you need next year.
If you’re changing Medicare plans, the Medicare Rights Center recommends enrolling in the new plan without disenrolling from your old one. Enroll by calling 800-MEDICARE. You will be automatically disenrolled from your previous Medicare private plan when your new coverage starts. Find out more at www.medicarerights.org.
Most people 65 and older plus some younger people with disabilities can get Medicare. If you aren’t sure you can get Medicare, call the Social Security Administration toll-free at 800-772-1213. You’ll need to provide your Social Security number and date of birth when you call.
– Courtesy of Family Features