The first time you enrolled in Medicare, on or around your 65th birthday, you made some major decisions regarding the future of your healthcare. Hopefully, you’ve been satisfied with the plan(s) you chose. But each year you will face the opportunity to make changes to that plan or plans, in the event that your needs have changed. So rest assured, you’re not locked into any particular plan for life!
The down side of this annual opportunity – called Medicare’s Annual Election Period – is that the choices can be a bit overwhelming. While there is no way to guide any individual to the absolute perfect plan via a blog, we can offer this basic guide to get you started.
What is Original Medicare? Originally, Medicare offered two parts: Part A covers hospitalization, while Part B covers doctor visits, preventive screenings, and other types of in-office treatment. Together, these two parts are called Original Medicare. You can elect to enroll in Original Medicare when you turn 65, but you’ll be automatically enrolled if you’re already receiving Social Security benefits at that age.
What is Medicare Part D? Part D offers prescription drug coverage. You must elect this plan yourself, as enrollment is not automatic.
What is Medicare Part C? Another option is to enroll in Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage plans. These plans are offered through private insurance companies but must meet basic standards set forth by Medicare. These plans combine both Parts A and B, and many also include Part D. In addition, some Medicare Advantage plans also provide coverage for services that are not normally offered through Original Medicare. These might include hearing aid coverage, vision checks, dental health, and more. Some plans even include extras such as a fitness club membership, lifestyle coaching, and emergency medical care outside of the United States.
As you can see, Medicare coverage can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. And to that end, Medicare Advantage plans vary quite a bit in their offerings, so that you can match a healthcare plan to your needs.
Even if you have been happy with your Medicare plan(s) in the past, your needs could change in coming years. Each fall, we recommend taking a look at your past year’s healthcare expenditures, talking to your doctor about potential upcoming needs, and analyzing your own priorities. Then, at least review your Medicare plan options to see what is available to you, so that you always understand your options. In the worst-case scenario, you simply realize your current plan is still a good fit; in that case, you don’t have to do anything. You will be automatically re-enrolled in your current plan.
The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period begins October 15 and runs through December 7. Give us a call, and we will be happy to help you review your priorities, and match you with a plan that meets your needs.