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Open enrollment for Medicare started Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7. If you are happy with your Medicare coverage, you can keep it. If you are enrolled in Part D, Medicare’s drug coverage, or a Medicare Advantage plan, an alternative to traditional Medicare provided by private insurers, you can switch your insurance during this period.
Here are six steps provided by U.S. News and World Report to take during Medicare’s annual open enrollment period to make sure you’re covered by the plan most likely to meet both your medical and financial needs:
- Fight inertia, plan to shop. Most people are inclined to sit-out open enrollment. According to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly 8 in 10 people enrolled in a Part D or Medicare Advantage plan stick with the same policy from one year to the next.
That may be the path of least resistance, but it’s probably not the cheapest. “Fewer than 1 in 10 people are in the plan that gives them the best cost of ownership,” says Nate Purpura, vice president of consumer affairs with the online insurance broker eHealth, Inc.
Last year, eHealthMedicare.com found that people willing to switch policies to one that offered better coverage for their particular drug regimen saved roughly $600 on prescription drug costs when they switched Part D plans. Savings jumped to more than $1,000 for those who changed their Medicare Advantage plans.
- Start by looking for changes. By now, you should have received an Annual Notice of Change from your insurer. This document will list upcoming changes to your existing coverage, such as the cost of premiums and co-pays, and show a comparison of the plan between this year and next. “The lowest-level intervention is to just take a close look at the Annual Notice of Change your plan has sent you,” says Casey Schwartz, senior counsel for education and federal policy with the Medicare Rights Center. “It’s a way to make sure there’s nothing about your plan you rely on that is changing.”
Still, if that’s all you do, you may miss out on savings. “There’s a lot of movement in the market, so it’s more important this year than any other year to shop,” says Joe DeLuca, director at eHealthMedicare.com.
- Evaluate all plan costs. In 2017, premiums for stand-alone drug plans will average $53.22 (less than $1 more than in 2016). Deductibles – the amount you’ll pay before your plan kicks to help cover your medication costs – will average $227.43, just $10 more than this year.
With Medicare Advantage plans, the average premium is actually dropping slightly for 2017 by about 4 percent, according to the consulting firm Avalere. Nearly 1 in 3 plans will have a $0 premium.
But to figure out which plan will best meet your needs, look beyond averages. “People don’t look into other options because they hear overall costs