Every year, around the end of September, Medicare sends a letter out to all Medicare beneficiaries. They’re legally obligated to send it out, as a matter of fact, and if you’re a Medicare beneficiary, you should’ve received one. Did you read yours? Most people don’t, and many of those people may be leaving money on the table. That’s right – ignoring this annual letter may actually be costing you money!
The next question asked by many is “What is Medicare sending me?” It’s an important question to ask, after all, and the answer is simple: Medicare is sending you a list of all of the changes about to be made to policies. For those of you fortunate enough not to learn this the hard way, many policies even change which medications they cover, as well as their deductibles and other important policies.
Why does this list circulate during the end of September every year? To prepare you for the coming open enrollment period; one of the most important opportunities for Medicare beneficiaries to adjust their benefits. The list of changes you’ll receive apply to Part D prescription drug plans and the Part C Medicare Advantage plans, and once you have that list of changes, it’s encouraged that you reevaluate your Medicare plan. Be careful to choose a plan that supports your specific medication, because this is your one change a year to make Medicare work for you.
Open enrollment begins on October 15th and closes on December 7th, but the name is a little misleading: you can’t actually “enroll” or apply for Medicare during this time. To apply for Medicare health insurance, you just need to be within three months of age 65 or older, but different penalties apply depending on when you enroll. Check with your doctor about Medicare eligibility and when to enroll.
The open enrollment period is a great time to reassess your healthcare needs and choose a new policy if you see another plan that would better support you. 87% of those receiving Medicare benefits either aren’t aware of this opportunity or simply don’t take advantage of it, and since almost half of the people who do decide to make a change save at least 5% the following year, it’s worth a look.
The price of Medicare, overall, has been dropping steadily for several years now, and there are no signs of it spiking back up. “It’s an ongoing pricing game,” says Dan Mendelson, chief executive officer for Avalere, a privately-held community of policy analysts. “The plans always try to price as low as possible and below the market and then they are forced to increase premiums. It means that now, more than ever, people need to go out and shop and take a careful look at what they are paying.”
Exploring new options can only help you find a better plan. Keep in mind factors like premiums, deductibles, and most importantly, supported medications, and see if the plan you’re on is really the best plan for you.
Have you ever reevaluated your healthcare needs? What are some tips for those thinking about switching policies? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!