Open Medicare enrollment begins October 15 and closes on December 7, meaning this may be a good time to review your existing plan and compare it to other plans. Even if you shopped around in prior years, reviewing your plan could save you money because as costs and coverage of plans change from year to year.
According to a recent Merrill Lynch study, only 19% of Medicare beneficiaries understand their health care options. When reviewing plans, be sure to focus on total costs (monthly premiums, co-pays, and deductibles). While most individuals only focus on monthly premiums, this is generally not an optimal way to select a plan, as the list of drugs covered by Part D change from year to year and important factors such as co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles can change as well.
You should have already received your new benefit summary statement, which insurance companies are obligated to release by September 30. Below is a list of steps we suggest taking as you shop around.
- Review your new benefit summary statement. Did premiums increase or did plan features change? Are you satisfied with the service from your existing plan?
- Go to https://medicare.gov/find-a-plan/questions/home.aspx, input your information, and find plans that match your personal criteria. Compare those plans to your current plan.
- If you need additional assistance, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program. In Washington State, the number is 1-800-562-6900. This organization provides unbiased help with Medicare and health care choices at no charge.
- Make a final decision and enroll before December 7.
When reviewing changes, we recommend that you pay special attention to Part D. With different pricing and coverage for generics and brand name drugs, this is likely an area where savings can vary significantly across plans.
If you have questions about how health care costs fit into your financial plan, please call your Empirical Advisor.