Medicare Open Enrollment takes place each year between October 15th and December 7th. Seniors should take action during this time period to select the health care coverage that best meets their needs. These actions can include changing their coverage, joining a new prescription drug plan, or enrolling in Medicare for the first time. The coverage selected during Medicare Open Enrollment will begin, in most instances, on January 1st the following year.


Finding the right plan for you or for your loved ones, is not always easy. There are a multitude of options and combinations available for coverage today. The key is to find the health care coverage that best meets your unique needs. We want to share four tips to use in selecting the right Medicare plan for you.


1. Read the mail you receive. Many of us are guilty of only glancing at the mail we receive. We do not take the time to carefully review the contents. Be sure to thoroughly read the mail you receive from Medicare. During the fall months, Medicare sends out important notices regarding your current health care coverage. Both the Plan Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and the Evidence of Coverage (EOC) highlight the costs and benefits changes for the upcoming year. Read these documents in full. The information contained inside of them is a crucial factor in your decision to keep your current plan or enroll in a new one for the next year. The cost and coverage of your plan can change each year. Do not assume your plan will stay the same.  


2. Learn the difference between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage. It is important to know the difference between types of plans. Traditional Medicare is run by the government. Medicare Part A is your hospital coverage and Medicare Part B is your health insurance. Medicare Part A can assist with payment for hospital and skilled nursing facility stays.  Medicare Part B applies to doctor visits, lab testing and durable medical equipment. In contrast, Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurers. While Advantage plans may restrict members to their network of doctors and hospitals, many of these plans combine with a prescription drug plan as a cost effective option. Advantage plans frequently include more than just medical services by incorporating vision, dental and hearing benefits.


3. Confirm with your doctors before you choose. Medicare Advantage plans limit options by only covering costs from a set network of doctors and hospitals. Before selecting an Advantage Plan, be sure to confirm with your doctors that they are a part of the plan’s network. Also, keep in mind, plan coverage changes each year and there is no guarantee that your doctor will continue to participate. You should not wait to get the information you need. Instead, be proactive and talk to your doctors, a Medicare representative, or use Medicare’s tool Physician Compare.


4. Consider a Medigap policy for yourself or a loved one. In most instances, your traditional Medicare plan will not pay for 100% of your health care needs. This is where Medicare Supplemental Insurance policies, also known as Medigap policies, can step in and provide assistance. Medigap policies assist enrollees of traditional Medicare A and B in paying for deductibles and coinsurance.


Do not wait to find the information you need to choose the right Medicare plan for you or for your loved ones during the Open Enrollment Period. Ask your questions and make sure you receive clear answers. This is the only way to ensure that your health care needs will be covered by your plan the following year. Remember, in almost all situations, Medicare will only pay a very small amount of your long-term care needs. Do not wait to schedule a meeting with our firm to discuss with Attorney Alan Hougum how you and your family can plan to afford the high costs of long-term care today.