Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people sixty-five years old and older, and certain other defined classes, provides medical coverage for millions of Americans. The program is split into various “parts”, with Part A providing coverage for hospital stays and other care services, Part B providing coverage for doctor’s services, and Part D providing prescription drug coverage. A Part C exists as well, known as Medicare Advantage, offered by private companies approved by Medicare.
The Medicare program has an “open enrollment” period every year, which, as it happens, is going on right now. The period extends from October 15 to December 7. During the open enrollment period, you can make changes to your Medicare coverage. For example, during this period you can enroll in Medicare Part D if you have not done so already. Or perhaps you now want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan – this is the time to do it. It should be noted that in order to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B and live in the plan’s service area.
If you are already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and don’t think you need to make any changes, you should still review your plan details during this period. Benefits and premiums can change from year to year, and the coverage for next year may not be suitable for your situation going forward. The same can be said for Medicare Part D coverage. You should check the prescription drug coverage for the coming year to make sure that your prescriptions are still covered.
Starting in 2019, there is a period from January 1 through March 31, when you have the opportunity to switch Medicare Advantage plans. So, if you chose a Medicare Advantage plan during the open enrollment period and then decide in the first quarter of 2019 that you don’t like the plan, you can switch to a different plan, or go back to the original Medicare. This can be done only once, whereas during the open enrollment period you can change your mind multiple times.
There are some other issues to be aware of when it comes to Medicare. Starting in April of 2018, new Medicare ID cards were issued. These new cards did not have social security numbers on them, with the intention of curbing identity theft. All Medicare beneficiaries will receive new cards by April of 2019. When received, the old ID card should be securely destroyed. The “donut hole” provision is also changing – the “donut hole” is the gap in coverage for prescription drugs after Medicare pays for a certain portion. The beneficiary would have to pay the costs in the gap up to a certain dollar amount. This provision is changing as a result of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
As you can see, Medicare is a complicated federal program. Coverage options should be reviewed during the open enrollment period to ensure that your plan is still suitable for you. Further information about these issues can be found at www.medicare.gov or by calling 1-800-633-4227.