Oct 15, 2021 6:27 PM

Time to compare your Medicare coverage

Posted Oct 15, 2021 6:27 PM

By DEBRA WOOD

Medicare Open Enrollment begins today, giving people with Medicare the option to shop for new coverage for the coming year.

This applies to both Part D and Medicare Advantage plans. 

Those who are content with their coverage do not have to make a change during open enrollment, but everyone with Medicare should at least look over all their current insurance information.

Fall Open Enrollment runs from Oct. 15-Dec. 7. This is your opportunity to compare plans to see if another plan will offer better coverage at a more affordable price.  The Medicare Plan Finder is the easiest way to look at overall costs and make those decisions.  If changes are made, the new coverage will take effect on Jan. 1.

Plans are allowed to change their cost and coverage rules from year to year, so you need to read mail from your plan to see if any changes affect you. In addition to moving drugs to different tiers with a different pricing structure, they may also change network and preferred pharmacies. If you did not receive this information, call your plan to request a copy. 

There are seven drug plans that will no longer be offered in 2022. The company will automatically enroll beneficiaries in a different plan. Beneficiaries in those plans should definitely take time to compare plans for coverage to make sure their medications are covered by the new plan, and to make sure it is most cost effective for them. In particular those currently enrolled in Blue Cross Blue Shield Enhanced, Express Scripts Medicare Saver, and Wellcare Medicare Select should compare and make sure the new plan they were moved to suits their needs for next year.

Be very cautious calling numbers you see advertised on TV. These national ads for Medicare Advantage plans often refer to benefits that may be allowable by law but are not available in our area, and often include misinformation such as saying everything is free.  It is critical to research the provider network and consider the true out-of-pocket costs before changing health care plans. Don’t let yourself be pressured on the phone without doing some research and remember nothing is free, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 72% of beneficiaries do not review their drug coverage each year. Some of this may be because beneficiaries are overwhelmed with the number of plans. 

If you would like assistance during open enrollment, free, unbiased, and confidential SHICK counselors are available. Many K-State Research and Extension offices have SHICK counselors to assist beneficiaries in comparing plans during open enrollment.

For an appointment in Saline or Ottawa counties, call 785-309-5850. 

For other counties, contact your local extension office to see if they offer this service.

Your local Area Agency on Aging also provides this service. In our area, contact North Central-Flint Hills AAA at 1-800-432-2703. 

Open enrollment may still look a little different this year due to COVID-19.

Those who have Tri-Care, Federal Employee Health Benefits, or VA coverage have access to creditable drug coverage through those programs and do not need to make a change. However, Veterans who have VA health benefits may compare plans and enroll during open enrollment without penalty if they so choose.

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Debra Wood, M.S., CFP® is the Family Resource Management/Family and Consumer Sciences agent for the K-State Research and Extension – Central Kansas District. She also is a SHICK counselor.