Are You Taking the Time to Review Your Medicare Advantage Options?
Most of us shop around before making a big purchase. We visit a variety of websites, ask friends for advice, read online reviews, and compare one option with another. That’s why a new statistic from WellCare is so surprising: 62 percent of seniors don’t review or shop around for Medicare Advantage plan options during open enrollment.
For most older adults, healthcare is their biggest expense, accounting for as much as 40 percent of their income. Men are more likely to review their Medicare options than women, but research shows neither group sees it as a priority. In fact, seniors spend more time comparison shopping for car insurance and cable television than they do for a Medicare plan.
According to Kaiser Health, seniors who do make time to shop around find themselves saving an average of $200 a year. Over 20 years, that can result in a savings of $4,000. This is a significant amount for an older adult on a fixed income.
So, how can you explore your Medicare options and make sure you are enrolling in a plan that offers you the best value at the most economical price?
We have a few suggestions you might find helpful.
Exploring Your Medicare Advantage Plan Options
Our first suggestion is to review the Annual Notice of Change letter you should have received in the mail from your current Medicare Advantage plan. Your provider is required to inform you of any changes they are making with regard to pricing, physicians, hospitals, and other plan details. This will give you an idea on how much you should expect to spend in the year ahead if you stick with your current plan.
Next, head over to the Medicare Plan Finder tool on Medicare’s official website. You will need your current plan identification number, a list of your medications, as well as your preferred pharmacy, physicians, and hospitals. The tool will walk you through entering your personal information step-by-step.
Once you have everything entered, the site’s database will match you with a list of plan options near you. The plans will be sorted by their annual cost to participants, but it’s important not to let price be the only factor you use to select a provider.
What else should you consider when choosing a Medicare Advantage plan?
Here are a few factors to take in to consideration:
- Plan quality: Medicare uses a five-star rating system to help consumers evaluate a plan’s commitment to quality of care. Each plan receives a separate star rating for overall quality, health plan quality, and prescription drug plan quality. You can search by plan name by visiting the Medicare Plan Quality and Performance Ratings page. Also, if you or your loved one happens to be currently residing at a senior living community, inquire whether they may have any options or can help you navigate through this decision.
- Your preferred providers: Also visit each plan’s website (the link will be included in the list generated by the Medicare Plan Finder tool) to determine if your preferred hospitals, pharmacies, lab services, physicians, and outpatient clinics are a part of the plan.
- Vision and dental coverage: One advantage some of these plans have over traditional Medicare is that they sometimes include vision and dental coverage. That can be a big benefit to older adults who don’t have any other insurance coverage.
- Plan perks: Does the plan offer any additional perks that are important to you? For example, some Medicare Advantage plans offer seniors a free membership to Silver Sneakers. This allows the older adult access to participating health and fitness clubs at no cost.
- Travelers: If you spend summers at the lake or winters in a warmer climate, it’s important to know how each plan covers healthcare when you are out of the local service area. A national plan might offer broader coverage, but the best way to find out for sure is to call each plan you are considering.
If you are struggling to navigate your way through what seems like a maze of Medicare Advantage plans, help is available.
Every state has an experienced group of volunteers who offer free one-on-one counseling to help seniors. It is known as the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, more commonly referred to as SHIP. Visit the SHIP website to locate personal assistance near you.