Are your Medicare plans still working for you? Medicare's open enrollment period, in which you can enroll in or switch plans, runs from October 15 to December 7. Now is the time to review your options to determine if switching plans could save you money.
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 2016 need to review their choices for 2017. Be sure to carefully look over the plan's "Annual Notice of Change" letter. 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, as well as their provider networks. For more information about entering and leaving Medicare Advantage plans, click here.
Avalere Health, a consulting and research firm, reports that premiums for the 10 most popular drug plans will rise an average of 4 percent next year. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the average Medicare Advantage premium is expected to decrease from $32.59 on average in 2016 to $31.40 in 2017.
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 2017 Medicare & You handbook, which all Medicare beneficiaries should have received. The handbook can also be downloaded online at: https://www.medicare.gov/medicare-and-you/medicare-and-you.html or https://www.medicare.gov/pubs/pdf/10050-Medicare-and-You.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