For many people, the Medicare open-enrollment process can be confusing with its alphabet plans. Part A is hospital insurance, Part B is medical insurance, Part C is Medicare Advantage (offered by private companies approved by Medicare such as an HMO) and Part D is prescription drug coverage. Even if you’ve been happy with your coverage, open enrollment is the time to double check what you have and make changes.
You should have received your “Plan Annual Notice of Change,” which lists any changes in your plan, such as a possible increase in cost or coverage areas. It’s important that you review this document. The notice will compare the benefits in 2020 with those you’re currently receiving. Be sure to check your prescription drug plan to ensure that the medications you need will still be covered. If a drug you take is no longer covered, you may want to switch plans. If you didn’t get your notice, which should have been mailed last month, contact your plan.
To help you review your options, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have redesigned the “Medicare Plan Finder” on medicare.gov
Medicare’s Plan Finder makes it easier to compare coverage options and shop for plans.
In reviewing your plan, don’t just focus on prices. You should balance affordability with coverage, making sure your plan provides the health services you need.
The nonprofit Medicare Rights Center has put together a free online reference tool that can help walk you thorough your choices. The consumer service organization also pointed out some updates for 2020:
— This year, Medicare Advantage Plans were allowed more flexibility in offering certain benefits such as nutrition services or in-home supports, and home modifications. In 2020, plans are allowed to offer more services to certain members with chronic conditions.
— The average Medicare prescription drug plan premium for 2020 is down slightly to $32.74 per month from $33.19.
The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) addresses some common questions in its Medicare open enrollment FAQs section. For example, here are a few questions answered by KFF.
“Q: My husband and I are retired. He just turned 65 and is covered under Medicare, but I am 62 and don’t have health insurance. As the spouse of a Medicare beneficiary, can I enroll in Medicare during the open enrollment period?
“KFF: No. Although your husband now qualifies for Medicare, you will not qualify for Medicare until you turn age 65. If you do not have health insurance now, you can consider signing up for health insurance coverage through a Marketplace plan
“Q: I didn’t sign up for Part B when I first became eligible, but want to sign up now. I know there is a penalty for late enrollment. Is there any way to avoid the penalty?
“KFF: Generally, no. In most cases, if you missed your Part B enrollment window, which runs from the three months before the month of your 65th birthday through the three months after the month of your 65th birthday, you will face a late enrollment penalty once you do enroll, which will be added to your premium costs for the remainder of your enrollment. The penalty equals 10 percent of the standard monthly premium for each 12-month period that you delayed enrollment.
“If you did not enroll for Part B during your initial enrollment period, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to sign up for Part B (and/or Part A) anytime as long as you or a spouse is working and you’re covered by a group health plan through that employment. For people age 65 or over who have coverage through a group health plan, there is also an 8-month SEP, which starts the month after the employment ends, or the group health plan coverage ends. If you sign up during an SEP, the late enrollment penalty will not apply.”
For more information on the late penalty for Part B click here.
For more information on the late penalty for Part D click here.
If you need help with Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or go to Medicare.gov.
Do you review your plan during Medicare open enrollment? If not, why not? Send your comments to email@example.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Medicare.”
Retirement Rants and Raves
I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. What do you like about retirement? What came as a surprise?
If you haven’t retired yet, what concerns you financially?
You can rant or rave. This space is yours. It’s a chance for you to express what’s on your mind. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”
Noel Marks of Lebanon, PA is 67 and has been retired for four years. He shared how he budgets for irregular expenses.
For example, for vacations to Ocean City, MD, he sets aside money every month during the year for real estate taxes (home paid off), home repairs and heating oil. He does the same for car repairs. “Life has taught me it is critical to have a significant sum available when something big happens to the car,” he wrote. “Budgeting $300 a month allows you to breath a little easier when you get a repair bill for $1,200. And trust me this is not an IF, rather it is a WHEN … I can sleep much easier knowing I have tried to anticipate expenses before they arrive.”
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