As your well aware by now, the Medicare AEP, Annual Election Period, is in full force. The AEP runs from October 15 – December 7 and allows you to make changes to your current Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug coverage. Any changes that you make during this time will go into effect January 1st. Making these changes can feel overwhelming and at times you may just give up, or worse, you may make a change to your detriment! These five tips will help keep you on track when deciding what changes need to be made to your Medicare coverage.
Always Shop Your Coverage Each Year
I know it’s like going to have a root canal or even a colonoscopy, but shopping your insurance every Medicare AEP is crucial to making sure that you are not overpaying for things like drugs or copays. Medicare Advantage companies change their coverage EVERY year so you should be re-evaluating your coverage as well. Even if you only have a Medicare PDP, you should still be shopping your Medicare drug coverage every year as well. Shopping your coverage doesn’t have to be difficult. We now offer an easy zip code search tool which will quickly and easily show you what options are available to you for your area. You can shop your Medicare Advantage Plan coverage, your Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage, and even your Medicare Supplements (Medigaps) right hear on the Medicare Plans site.
Monthly Premium Doesn’t Equal Monthly Cost
The easy way to shop might be to just look at the premium for each plan that is offered in your area. While premium is certainly important, it definitely isn’t everything. Make sure you consider the plan Copays, Deductibles, and Drug Costs. Many plans are implementing deductibles for drugs as well as Out of Network use. Also, consider that higher copays may end up costing you as well if you are making frequent trips to Medicare facilities.
Make Sure Your Medications Are Covered
This one is easy to miss, but perhaps the most important. Every plan that covers drugs has a formulary listing their covered drugs. All formularies are not the same. First make sure that your drug is listed in their formulary. If not, you may end up paying full price. Second, find out what tier your drug falls under. The lower the tier, the lower the cost. Also, consider whether or not the plan has a deductible for drugs, and how much their copays are.
Network, Network, Network
Medicare Advantage plans have networks and many times it’s the network that differentiates one plan from another. ALWAYS confirm that the providers that you want to use are in the plan’s network. Providers can change networks from year to year so make sure to stay on top of it. This is especially true with HMO’s where you must be in network in order for the plan to pay.
Star Ratings May Matter
Most plans will have a star rating listed with them. The star rating is not your typical reviews that you find alongside dishwashers or tvs that you are looking to buy. Medicare uses a rating system to help you determine how each plan is performing. You may not notice a big difference between a 4 1/2 star plan and a 4 star plan, but be weary of plans with a 2 star rating or lower.