You’ve probably seen those TV ads urging Medicare recipients to call about Medicare Advantage plans or Medicare Part C, and talking about the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). Some of their promises sound too good to be true. Should you consider a Medicare Advantage plan?
Medicare Advantage plans can be a good option for many—in fact, according to AARP, in 2023 more than half of Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.
The AEP, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, is the perfect time to examine your current Medicare coverage, note any changes taking place in the upcoming year, and see what other options are available to you. Changes you make now take effect Jan. 1, 2024.
But before you call that 800 number, why not call someone you know and trust—like local independent agency Lakewood Financial Services? Read on for more information about Medicare Advantage plans and more!
Is a Medicare Advantage plan right for you?
There are two ways you can receive your Medicare benefits: through original Medicare or through Medicare Advantage. Original Medicare consists of Parts A (hospital coverage) and B (medical coverage). Many people also enroll in a standalone Part D prescription drug coverage policy.
Medicare Advantage plans consist of parts A and B and often Part D. These plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans are similar to the managed care plans you may already be familiar with through your employer. They’re often HMOs or PPOs: you will need to see providers in the plan’s network or pay a much higher copay or risk not being covered at all. Most of these are regional networks, so if you’re a snowbird who lives up north during the summer, you probably won’t have in-network options for your non-emergency healthcare. You will likely need referrals for specialized care and preapproval before certain treatments are covered. Some say that denials of coverage are more frequent than with original Medicare. However, through the careful management of care, a Medicare Advantage plan can often cost you less out-of-pocket and sometimes include coverage for dental, vision, and hearing, which original Medicare does not.
The AEP is one of the only times you have to change the way you receive your Medicare benefits. During this period, you have several options:
- Change from original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan (also known as Medicare Part C)
- Change Medicare Advantage plans
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to original Medicare
If you’re happy with your current choice, you can stay with it as long as it is still being offered—just be sure to check if there are any changes that affect your coverage to the plan you’re currently enrolled in. You should have received an Annual Notice of Change listing any upcoming changes. Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare drug plans may change what they cover, their costs, and their provider networks from year to year.
Health care costs can eat up your retirement savings, so carefully consider your health and financial situation. Someone with a health history of chronic disease that requires expensive prescriptions will likely need a different plan than someone who sees his or her doctor once a year for a physical. Other things to consider include: have you received a new diagnosis or started taking a new medication? Did you change doctors? Can you afford the costs (copays, deductibles, etc.) that come with your current coverage? Does your prospective plan include your doctor in network?
Find out more from Lakewood Financial Services
There is a lot to sort through during the AEP, but it’s worth taking the time to review your health care coverage to see if it still meets your needs. If you’d like help understanding your Medicare options, why not have a trusted insurance professional help you? In addition to providing Medicare Advantage plans through companies like Aetna and UnitedHealthcare, if you’re staying with original Medicare, Lakewood Financial can also help you with a supplemental (“Medigap”) policy or a Medicare prescription drug plan. Call us at (941) 747-4600, or click here to contact us online.
For more information, see the 2024 Medicare & You Handbook.