By now you have likely seen countless ads about Medicare Advantage and Medicare Open Enrollment. Here's how to get your Medicare plan ready for 2022.
Now through Dec. 7 is the annual open enrollment period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D Prescription Drugs plans. It’s time to take a serious look at your current coverage and decide if you want to make any changes.
Just because the premium only went up a few dollars doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention. The plans can change their formularies — covered drugs lists. This means that your current drug may not be covered or could be covered at a different tier, resulting in different copays and costs to you.
Earlier in the fall you should have received an Annual Notice of Change, which outlines changes in your current plan. Likely you didn’t review it, so now is the time. After Dec. 7 you may not change your drug plan until fall 2022. Remember, if you don’t enroll in a Part D drug plan when you’re initially eligible you’ll pay a penalty when you enroll later. That penalty is about $5 monthly for the year you delayed enrollment in the plan.
If you’re on an Anthem drug plan, pay special attention. Rather than pay $26.10, you could be paying as much as $92 in monthly premiums. If you’re taking no drugs and simply want a skinny plan to serve as a “just in case” plan, the SilverScript plan is $7.50 monthly with a $480 annual deductible.
A simple way to compare plans is to go to the Medicare website at https://bit.ly/3r4chre and input your current medications. This is a terrific website. It will show you all the plans available in your area and the total cost — including deductibles, copays and premiums for the entire year — based on your input.
Of course, we’re all one doctor visit away from a new medication, so this is still a bit tricky. But there’s some comfort in knowing that all plans must include two drugs in every therapeutic class. This does not guarantee it’s the drug your physician prescribes, but at least there’s room for options.
Going to the Medicare website is also where you can obtain detailed information without having to contact an third party’s 800 number and potentially get enrolled in something you really didn’t want. After all, we’re being inundated with ads for Medicare Advantage plans.
There are only three Medicare Advantage plans available. As you look at each one, be sure to click on the blue bar labeled "PLAN DETAILS." Here you will land on the "OVERVIEW" page and see four other categories:
Benefits and Costs
Click on “Benefits and Costs.” At the very top you'll see a hyperlink to “View Provider Network Directory.” It’s very important that you review this section to be sure there’s an adequate provider list. In addition, you can see how your medicines would be covered under the Drug Coverage tab.
One important note about the United Health Care HMO plans: You may not use U.C. Davis or U.C. San Francisco Medical Centers. If you want to have that option, these plans are not for you.
Also remember that in the event of a catastrophic loss, you could have as much as $6,700 in out of pocket costs on these plans.
If you don’t like the Medicare Advantage plan, you may disenroll and re-enroll in Original Medicare during specific times of the year.
However, if you’ve been in the Advantage plan for more than one year, and you wish to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan to fill in the gaps in Medicare, you’ll be subject to health underwriting. This means you must answer health questions. Since the insurance companies don’t add waivers for specific conditions, you’re either accepted or rejected based on your medical history.
One last reminder: The time to look at your Medicare Supplement or Medigap plan is in your birthday month. This current open enrollment period doesn’t apply to those plans.
Don’t wait until Dec. 6 to make changes to your Part D plans. Try to do it now so you can be assured that your plan is processed, and you have your new identification cards. You certainly don’t want your application to be lost in the last minute rush or not make it to the insurance carrier in time to be processed.
Margaret Beck has been a licensed insurance broker since 1978. Call her at 530-225-8583.
This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: Enroll, check your Medicare plan for 2022