This fall, seniors have the opportunity to change their Medicare plan coverage. However, very few do this. In fact, less than half of beneficiaries (43%) say they review or compare Medicare coverage options annually, according to an analysis of data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
There are two primary types of Medicare: traditional Medicare, which is the government-managed program also called “Original Medicare.” There are also Medicare Advantage plans, which are all-in-one alternatives offered by private insurers. In the fall open enrollment period, seniors with traditional Medicare can add a Medicare Part D stand-alone drug plan to their coverage or change their existing Part D plan. They can also switch from traditional Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan. Those with Medicare Advantage can also change their existing Medicare Advantage plan during open enrollment, or they can switch from Medicare Advantage to traditional Medicare.
Both Medicare Advantage and Part D plans vary in cost and coverage because these plans are offered by private insurance companies that contract with the federal Medicare program. As the Kaiser Family Foundation writes:
Plans often change from one year to the next, which could lead to unexpected and avoidable costs for beneficiaries who do not review their options annually. Plan changes can also lead to disruptions for beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage plans, if their doctors do not remain in their plan’s network from one year to the next, or if their drug plan no longer covers one of their medications, or makes a change in their pharmacy network, or increases costs for covered drugs.
Again, only a small percentage of Medicare beneficiaries switch plans each year, according to the research. Either recipients are satisfied with their coverage or they’re missing out on more affordable or more appropriate coverage — or both — because they don’t shop around.
Medicare can be confusing, especially if you’re new to the federal health insurance program reserved for seniors and people with certain disabilities.
If you miss your first enrollment period, it can be costly. If you don’t enroll at 65, it can trigger permanent financial penalties.
Ask an experienced elder law attorney about your Medicare issues and questions.
Reference: Money Talks News (Nov. 9, 2020) “Most Seniors Are Making This Medicare Mistake”