October is a key planning month for retirement. Very soon, we will be learning whether the government’s calculated inflation number budged enough year-over-year to trigger a cost of living adjustment for next year’s Social Security benefits. This number also influences whether or not there will be an increase in retirement plan contribution limits in 2017. But first up is the kickoff to Medicare open enrollment season.
Medicare open enrollment starts on Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7. During this time seniors have the ability to make changes to their coverage, which could save them hundreds of dollars in healthcare-related expenses. Though the opportunity is given, many people take a “set it and forget it” attitude with their Medicare coverage choices. Perhaps this is because the decisions may seem overwhelming, and once was enough. To help remedy that, here’s a few tips from an article posted at Marketwatch.com that can help this task seem a little less daunting:
Review your current plan. Plans can change, as can your needs. You should receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and/or Evidence of Coverage (EOC) if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan or a standalone Part D plan. Read them so you're aware of any changes.
Make sure your doctor still accepts your particular Medicare Advantage plan. If your health-care provider's affiliation changes, you may need to choose a new doctor, or decide to pay more for your current doctor's out-of-network costs.
Check your medications. Don't just make sure your drugs are on your plan's list, but also look carefully for restrictions like quantity limits, or prior authorization. Also, if your plan has a network-pharmacy benefit, check to see if the pharmacies covered are easy for you to access. Lastly, compare prescription-drug benefits across plans: you may be surprised at the amount of money you could save.
Consider premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Add up co-payments, co-insurance, and annual deductibles, along with the monthly premiums. Then compare costs.
Be aware of the Medicare Advantage maximum out-of-pocket limit. After you spend a certain amount out of pocket, you pay nothing for covered services. Different plans may have different caps, and the limits can change each year, so compare and review.
Get some help. Medicare.gov offers a Plan Finder tool where you can find and compare Medicare Advantage and prescription-drug plans available in your area. You can also contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, or go through a licensed insurance agent who is experienced and knowledgeable regarding these plans. The services of an agent do not cost you anything. The insurance companies pay their commissions, and your premium will be the same whether or not you use an agent.