How to Approach Medicare Open Enrollment: A Guide for Caregivers

How to Approach Open Enrollment: A Guide for Caregivers

September 30, 2015 on &

It’s that time of the year! From October 15 until December 7, Medicare beneficiaries will be able to change their choices for Part D (prescription drug) coverage, enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, change Medigap plans, and/or change Medicare Advantage plans.

Just writing that sentence gives one a knot in the stomach. Too many choices, not enough information. Where should you begin?

First, your care recipient should have received an annual notice from the companies that are supplying their coverage. Some of the packages look overwhelming and one just longs to discard them. But wait. At least take out the thinner booklet–the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)–and look at the first few pages.

Is the plan premium going up? If so, is it going up a LOT? If the increase is 10% or higher, that indicates that there may be a better alternative out there.
What about the deductible? If it used to be zero, and now it’s not, that’s another indication that you may want to think about changes. The more difficult information to assess is changes in the drug premiums.

When I opened my packet, I saw the company had added another “tier” to the generic drugs. I take generic drugs. How will this affect me?

Is your loved one in a Part C/Medicare Advantage/ Managed Care plan? Do you have any idea what you paid out in copays this year? Were there unexpected expenses that the plan did NOT pay? Are they likely to recur? You may want to consider changing to a Medigap plan with fixed costs.

Conversely, are you paying for a Medigap plan, but your loved one has few, if any, physician visits, except annual wellness checks and preventive benefits? If your relative lives in the same area year-round, you may want to investigate Medicare Advantage plans with lower premiums and possible additional benefits like hearing and vision assistance.

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