Medicare open enrollment tips

Yahoo Finance’s Janna Herron shares some open enrollment tips for Medicare.

Video Transcript

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AKIKO FUJITA: Well, the annual fall enrollment period for Medicare is officially underway . Personal Finance Editor Janna Herron joining us here with a checklist on what seniors should consider to help manage costs. Janna?

JANNA HERRON: Yes, and you would be surprised because the majority of seniors don't even compare their plan options during open enrollment season. Nearly 1/2 haven't visited the Medicare website for more information, and another half have not called the Medicare Helpline. So you have a lot of seniors who are going in, and they're really just checking off what they did last year.

But why do you want to compare? First of all, you have two big options here. You can do the traditional Medicare, which is Part A, Part B, plus Medicare Part D that covers prescription drugs. Or you can look at the various Medicare Advantage Plans. And those are Medicare-approved, but they are administered by private insurers.

And there's so many options out there. So you might need some help. There's some online platforms that can help you compare, including medicare.gov.

Now, why would you want to change your plan? If you're happy with your plan, why get something different? Well, there are a few things that might be happening in your life that might make you want to at least look around.

So if you have a big change to your financial situation, maybe you're on a tighter budget than you were last year, maybe you're not, you might want to go and look and see what kind of plans are available that are in your price range, that fit your budget, so that you can live out those retirement years the way you want to.

Now, if you are on different medication or drugs than you were last year, you want to make sure that your plan covers those prescriptions at a price point that works for your budget. And it can vary widely. So you might be paying $10 for this medicine on one plan but then pay $100 on a different plan. So that's something you want to look into.

The last is, say you have a new diagnosis that requires you to see a specialist. And you might be seeing that specialist a lot in the next year. You want to make sure that your plan covers that particular specialist, that they're in-network or that they take Medicare, if you're on original Medicare. Otherwise, you could be paying a lot of money out-of-pocket.

So those are some of the big reasons why you really want to look into your options out there and make sure you make an option, that you make a choice that reflects your budget and reflects your health reality.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, let's just say people make a choice there that they're not happy with though, they might want to undo it. I mean, how locked into it are if it doesn't go well this time around?

JANNA HERRON: Well, right. So the enrollment period right now runs from October 15-- it's already started-- through December 7. Say you make a choice, December 7 rolls around, and you're like, wait a minute. Maybe I want to do something different.

If you're unhappy with your selection, there's a way out. There's another open election period that happens in January until the end of March. So you're not locked in. You do have a chance to make an adjustment if you think that, oh, maybe that was the wrong choice the first time around.

ZACK GUZMAN: All right. So maybe obvious reasons to do your homework here. But perhaps a little bit of silver lining there to maybe undo it if you make a bad choice. Janna Herron bringing us the latest there. Appreciate it.

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