October 17, 2014
If you're currently enrolled in Medicare, what you do or don't do over the next few weeks could determine whether you can secure the best, most affordable coverage next year. Here's why:
Medicare Part D prescription plans frequently change premiums, drug formularies, deductibles and copayment amounts for specific drugs from year to year. Medicare Advantage plans often make similar changes; plus doctors, hospitals and pharmacies may drop out of their preferred provider networks.
Thus, by simply choosing the same options for 2015 without investigating alternatives, you could wind up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars more for similar healthcare services.
Medicare's annual election period (a.k.a. open enrollment) to make coverage changes for 2015 runs from October 15, 2014, to December 7, 2014. For most people, this is the best – and sometimes only – opportunity to make coverage changes. (Exceptions are made for people who qualify for a special enrollment period – see "Medicare & You" at www.medicare.gov for details.)
If you already have traditional Medicare Parts A and B, you needn't make any changes; however, if you also have Part D, you must either reenroll in your current plan or choose another.
During open enrollment you can:
Current Advantage plan enrollees can also use the Medicare Advantage disenrollment period (January 1, 2015, to February 14, 2015) to switch back to Medicare Parts A, B and D. However they cannot:
When choosing next year's Part D plan:
Medicare Advantage plans are HMO- or PPO-type alternatives to Medicare Parts A and B. Most cover drugs and some include extra benefits like vision and dental coverage at additional cost. They usually have lower deductibles and copayments but require you to use the plan's provider network. A few tips:
Bottom line: Reviewing your Medicare options each year is complicated and time-consuming. But if you don't and your plans change significantly, it could cost you a bundle next year.
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