5 last-minute tips for Medicare enrollmentNews added by Benefits Pro on November 25, 2013
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By Kathryn Mayer

Time is ticking.

People who want to switch their Medicare coverage for 2014 have just a few weeks left in the Medicare annual open enrollment period that ends Dec. 7.

“For the vast majority of the 50 million Medicare beneficiaries, the next few weeks are their main opportunity to make changes to their coverage for 2014,” said Paula Muschler, operations manager of the Allsup Medicare Advisor, a Medicare plan selection service.

“The choices can be overwhelming, but there are practical steps people can take to make sure they have the coverage they need come Jan. 1,” Muschler added.

Here are five last-minute tips for Medicare beneficiaries from Muschler:

Identify and prioritize health care needs and budget. Participants should outline their medical and prescription drug needs for next year, including medications and physicians. Then also examine their expenses for next year and what they would like to pay for health care. “Too often, people focus on comparing their current plan to other plan options rather than focusing first on their needs,” Muschler said.

Compare options under Medicare Advantage. “The first plan decision people need to make is whether they want to use Original Medicare with prescription drug coverage or if they want to use a Medicare Advantage plan,” Muschler said. “If supplemental coverage, or Medigap, is a priority, this also factors into their decision.” Individuals choose Medicare Advantage over Original Medicare for a number of reasons, including costs and coverage options, she said.
Evaluate more than just the premiums when checking costs against budget. Along with premiums, plan co-pays and deductibles can vary. Also, some plans may put restrictions on drug quantities or have preferred pharmacies, all of which can affect how much someone pays out-of-pocket for their health care needs.

“Look at how you are likely to use your coverage,” Muschler said. “Do you go to the doctor frequently and, therefore, your co-pays could add up? Are your medications covered under your plan and what is the co-pay? These factors need to be counted in the cost equation.”

Ask for help. There are actually a lot of unbiased resources available to offer help, Muschler said.

Consider Medicare plan quality ratings and features, but within reason. Medicare gives each plan a rating of one to five stars. A 5-star rating means that Medicare rates the plan as offering excellent quality to its members. The quality rating provides important information, but individuals also need to ensure the plan provides the coverage they need at a price they can afford. For example, a 5-star Medicare Advantage plan may not work for someone if their doctor does not participate in it. A 5-star prescription drug plan may not work well if the medication co-pays are extremely high for the beneficiary. In addition, Medicare does not rate new plans since they don’t have enough information about these plans.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com
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