Open Enrollment For Medicare Begins: What Seniors Need To Know

More than 23 million older adults in the United States are economically insecure. Finding the right health insurance policy can be difficult enough, but seniors have it even tougher when they have to navigate the Medicare options available to them. And with 45 million people enrolled in Medicare due to their age, there’s a lot of room for error. Open enrollment season has officially begun for Medicare and will run through December 7. To safeguard both their health and finances during the next year, seniors should follow the tips below.

Review your current plan

Even if you were satisfied with your coverage this past year, that does’t mean you should automatically renew your policy. While some people may not need to make any changes, you should carefully look over the medication tiers and see whether any of the drugs you’re taking will be impacted by changed made to coverage. If you have experienced any changes to your medical health over the last year, you should definitely review your policy to be sure it still fits your needs.

USA Today recommends that current Medicare Advantage (or other Medicare drug plan) recipients should read their insurers’ annual notice of change or evidence of benefits letter(s) carefully. These letters outline the benefits and cost changes for your current policy. It may be tempting to just discard that letter or throw it in the trash, but it’s vital that you stay informed. You can request another copy from your insurer if you’ve misplaced it.

Be informed about scams

Unfortunately, there are criminals there who take advantage of seniors trying to navigate the confusing Medicare process. Crystal Hitchcock, a volunteer for an organization that provides free, objective Medicare counseling, told the Columbia Daily Herald:

“People don’t think they’re going to fall victim to it, but they do — they get these phone calls just out of the blue and think Medicare’s calling.”

But Medicare officials will rarely call you, and if they do, they’ll never ask you for your personal information. Never give out personal identifying information, particularly your Social Security number, over the phone.
Thieves have resorted to other methods to obtain information, as well. Medicare will be sending out new cards to recipients between April of 2018 and April of 2019, but Hitchcock says Medicare hasn’t told them how they’ll be mailed out, as they’re worried scammers may try to snatch them out of mailboxes or take advantage of the confusion associated with the new cards (like telling seniors there’s a charge for their new card to be mailed to them or that this will change their current benefits). Be sure to safeguard your information at all costs and to question any information you receive that isn’t officially from your insurer. Medicare recipients are warned to hold onto their current cards until January of 2020, at which point these cards should be destroyed via shredder.

Contact your doctors

Those who choose to enroll in Medicare Advantage might be surprised to learn that their current doctor or other care provider is no longer in their plan’s network. To reduce your risk of losing out on care (or having to pay much more for it), you should contact your doctors, your local hospital, and all other healthcare providers to ensure you can still receive treatment there. When you call, give the office your plan’s full name (rather than the name of your insurer) and code number, if possible, to obtain accurate results. Although open enrollment lasts through December, you should contact your physicians early on to ensure the plan you intend to sign up for will include health providers you currently use.

For additional information…

Understanding all of the plans at your disposal may seem like an impossible task. CNBC created a comprehensive guide to the different types of Medicare plans out there and what they’re used for. When in doubt, contact your insurer or an expert, impartial third party in your state.

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