Are you happy with your Medicare coverage? Could you get a better plan for less money? It is time to review whether your plan or plans are working for you. Medicare's open enrollment period, in which you can enroll in or switch plans, runs from October 15 to December 7. A careful analysis could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars on next year's coverage.
During this period you may enroll in a Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan or, if you currently have a plan, you may change plans. In addition, during the seven-week period you can return to traditional Medicare (Parts A and B) from a Medicare Advantage (Part C, managed care) plan, enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, or change Advantage plans. Beneficiaries can go to www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to make changes in their Medicare prescription drug and health plan coverage.
Even beneficiaries who were satisfied with their plans in 2015 need to review their options for 2016. Prescription drug plans can change their premiums, deductibles, the list of drugs they cover, and their plan rules for covered drugs, exceptions and appeals. Medicare Advantage plans can change their benefit packages and as well as their provider networks. For more information about entering and leaving Medicare Advantage plans, click here.
While the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says that the average premium for a basic Medicare Part D prescription drug plan in 2016 will remain stable, at an estimated $32.50 per month, Avalere Health, a consulting and research firm, reports that premiums for the 10 most popular drug plans will rise an average of 8 percent next year, and five of these plans will see double-digit hikes. According to CMS, the average Medicare Advantage premium is expected to decrease from $32.91 on average in 2015 to $32.60 in 2016.
Remember that fraud perpetrators will inevitably use the Open Enrollment Period to try to gain access to individuals' personal financial information. Medicare beneficiaries should never give their personal information out to anyone making unsolicited phone calls selling Medicare-related products or services or showing up on their doorstep uninvited. If you think you've been a victim of fraud or identity theft, contact Medicare. For more information on Medicare fraud, click here or here.
Here are more resources for navigating the Open Enrollment Period:
- The 2016 Medicare & You handbook, which all Medicare beneficiaries should have received. The handbook can also be downloaded online at: www.medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/10050.pdf
- The Medicare Rights Center: www.medicareinteractive.org
- Your State Health Insurance Assistance Program, which offers independent counseling: https://www.shiptacenter.org
- Kiplinger's "How to Compare Medicare Advantage Plans"
- Medicare Plan Finder: www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan