If you have Medicare but haven’t selected a 2018 Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan, Thursday’s annual enrollment deadline is quickly approaching. Here are five simple steps to help you make the best decision:
Review your current Medicare health plan. Analyze how much you’ve spent on health care during the past year, including hospital expenses, prescriptions and doctor bills. This will help you estimate your 2018 health care expenses and determine if your current Medicare plan still meets your medical and financial needs.
Know your options. Choices include:
▪ Original Medicare, which provides basic coverage for medical expenses without coverage for most prescriptions, and includes cost-sharing in the form of deductibles and coinsurance. This is Medicare Parts A and B.
▪ Medicare Advantage, which includes all of the coverage offered under Original Medicare through a private insurer, and may include added benefits, such as dental, hearing and vision coverage, a nurse advice line and fitness program, as well as prescription drug coverage. Medicare Advantage plans are steadily gaining popularity, with the number of enrollees more than tripling since 2004 to 17.6 million or nearly a third of Medicare beneficiaries, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This is Medicare Part C.
▪ Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, which offer coverage for prescription medications, and can be added to Original Medicare, a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan or some Medicare Advantage Plans that do not include prescription drug coverage. This is Medicare Part D.
▪ Medicare Supplement Plans, which pay some costs not paid by Original Medicare, like deductibles and coinsurance. Enrollment in a Medicare Supplement plan is not limited to the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period and these plans do not have a set provider network.
Comparison Shop. Once you choose the type of Medicare plan that best fits your needs, research the costs, benefits and network of doctors and hospitals associated with each plan. Check to see if your hospital and doctors are included.
Consider the “extras” included. Some Medicare Advantage plans include extra benefits, such as a fitness program and exercise classes specifically designed for people with Medicare. Others include dental, vision and hearing benefits. Determine how important these added benefits are to your lifestyle and wellness needs.
Get help. Shopping for a Medicare plan can be daunting, but there are resources available to assist you. You can call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) (or TTY: 1-877-486-2048) 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 2018 Medicare plan information. Or you can call Humana at 1-888-204-4062 (TTY users can use 711). Websites like Medicare.gov and humana.com/medicare can also help you research plans available in your area before Thursday’s (Dec. 7) Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan annual enrollment deadline.
It’s also important to note that the plan you select by Thursday will be your Medicare plan for all of 2018, with few exceptions, so it’s smart to carefully research your options prior to the deadline.
Gig Harbor resident Catherine Field is Humana’s market president in Washington state.