By Jeff Conyers
Many of us take a deep breath after the holidays. October, November and December are hectic months and our focus tends to be on family, friends and the numerous personal commitments surrounding the holidays.
This considered, many seniors ignore the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, which provides Medicare Beneficiaries an opportunity to change Medicare Advantage and Part D Prescription plans for the upcoming year. This is crunch time for most seniors, and oftentimes, they’re left feeling stuck with the choices they made during a hectic AEP.
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What many folks don’t realize is they also have a chance to make one additional change to their Medicare Advantage coverage for the year during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period. Seniors can potentially save a lot of money and gain benefits during OEP which runs through March 31.
The OEP is the time when a beneficiary with Medicare Advantage can either:
1. Change from one MA plan to a different MA plan, or
2. Drop their MA plan and return to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and subsequently apply for a Medicare Supplement or Part D prescription coverage if they choose. To be clear, a Medicare Supplement will be medically underwritten in most cases.
If a senior currently has Medicare Advantage, they may want to shop during the OEP because these plans are getting more competitive as new players are entering the market. To stay competitive, insurance companies continue to add new services and benefits.
For example, some plans include transportation to and from medical appointments, dental expense reimbursement, meals delivered to home after a hospital stay and acupuncture. This is because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is giving Medicare Advantage plans the most flexibility they’ve ever had in terms of covering non-medical, supplemental benefits.
Likewise, the Trump Administration has taken steps to improve and drive competition in Medicare Advantage resulting in more savings, more benefits and lower costs for beneficiaries.
Regardless, many seniors will not take advantage of the OEP.
One particular AARP survey found that 23% of seniors said they found reviewing their Medicare plan to be one of the least pleasant tasks they endure. Many said they would prefer “getting a colonoscopy” and “going to the dentist” to comparing plan options.
Reviewing Medicare options and shopping for a new Medicare Advantage program does not have to be confusing or painful. Are you leaving benefits on the table or spending more than necessary on prescriptions? If you are curious, contact an independent agent who can help you compare plan options. Open Enrollment ends March 31.
Jeff Conyers is founder of Carolina Living Benefits Associates in Charlotte. He can be reached at 704-321-0490 or email@example.com.
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