Medicare comes up constantly when I work with retirees. It can be complicated and having the right coverage is a critical piece of your overall financial picture and peace of mind for families and seniors. Yet, according to one study, only 33% of Medicare-eligible seniors evaluate their Medicare plans annually.
With Open Enrollment upon us, it’s the best opportunity to make sure the plan you’ve chosen is still right for you.
First, you may be asking what Open Enrollment is. Basically, if you or someone close to you is a Medicare participant, October 15 through December 7 is crucial because Medicare plans can be changed. Your health care needs could have shifted since your initial sign-up, or maybe you're on the hunt for more benefits without breaking the bank.
Here are some tips to help you navigate this season.
- Think About Your Health Care Needs and Goals
The first step is to get a handle on your current and future health care needs. Jot down your regular medications, any planned surgeries, lifestyle changes, and specialists you anticipate seeing. This will serve as your roadmap when you're looking at various Medicare plans, ensuring they align with your medical needs.
Evaluating how the last year went will also help. Were your out-of-pocket expenses high last year and do you need better coverage? Do you have sufficient coverage and want to lower your costs? Did you have too much coverage?
Answering these questions will give you a clearer perspective before diving into all the options.
- Don't Just Look at the Premium—Compare Overall Costs
When you’re exploring plans on www.medicare.gov, you’ll see a range of options.
While a low monthly premium might seem tempting, it can be deceiving. Make sure you're scrutinizing the full cost picture: that includes copays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums. And if you travel, you'll want to look into how each plan handles out-of-network charges.
- Check if Your Providers and Medications are Covered
If you have a favorite doctor or specialist, ensure they're included in any new plan you're considering. Changing plans might mean saying goodbye to providers you trust, and that can be a deal-breaker for many. Rather than relying on websites that may be outdated, the best thing you can do is call your provider’s office to see if they’re a part of the plan you're considering.
Also, when thinking about switching drug plans, consider what’s covered and not. To make life easier, your prescriptions with dosages are listed in your Medicare.gov account and you can see what plans are suggested for coverage.
- Don’t Forget About Dental and Vision
Dental coverage has gotten stronger in the last few years, so if you’ve decided in the past that it’s not adequate for you, it may be worth another look. Also, vision coverage is a low-cost option that’s worth evaluating.
- When in Doubt, Consult the Pros
Sometimes you just need a little expert advice to point you in the right direction. Don't hesitate to seek guidance from professional consultants, Medicare insurance providers, or the Medicare hotline. Their day-to-day job is to help people select the best plan for their needs. In fact, we often refer clients to experts who can help them save money and get better coverage. We’re happy to point you in the direction of expert help.
Evaluating your Medicare options can be painless with the right preparation and resources. After all, making an informed decision now can save you money and stress in the long run.
Medicare is just one consideration when working on your retirement strategy. Contact us to learn more about our holistic financial planning services and see what retirement can look like for you.