Are you currently on Medicare or planning to enroll in Medicare this year? Now is the time to act because the open enrollment period is LIVE. It’s always a good rule of thumb to review your current plan to ensure you are on the best plan for your specific health and financial situation. Plus, making changes to your existing plan could potentially save you thousands of dollars for 2023. There are deadlines you need to know. Medicare open enrollment began on October 15th and ends on December 7th. Below are a few answers to frequently asked questions we see each year.
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What are my options for Medicare?
There are two primary choices to consider:
Original Medicare- With Original Medicare, you will want to add a Medicare Supplemental (Medigap) plan and a Part D Prescription Drug Plan. This medical plan option is best if you want to pay a set monthly premium and have little or no out-of-pocket medical costs throughout the year. You will have copays/deductibles with Part D prescription plans. This coverage is advantageous if you want to choose your doctors without needing a referral or if you don’t want to be restricted to doctors within a specific plan network. These plans can also be the most cost-effective if you have significant health issues.
Medicare Advantage Plan (or Part C)- With Medicare Advantage Plans, you combine Part A, Part B, and usually Part D coverage, and these plans act as an HMO (Health Management Organization) or PPO (Preferred Provider Organization). You can choose a plan with no or very low premiums, depending on what is available in your area.
With Medicare Advantage plans, you share the costs of your medical and prescription care (i.e., copays and deductibles). For example, you will have doctor copays and deductibles each time you see your physician or go to the hospital. It is wise to compare the Advantage Plans available in your area because each plan has a different maximum out-of-pocket cost. You also need to check with your physician to confirm that he/she accepts your chosen plan. These plans are best if you are healthy and rarely visit the doctor and you are comfortable knowing you’ll share the costs of all doctor and hospital visits.
What about Part D – Rx Plans?
If you choose a stand-alone drug plan with your original Medicare, be sure to carefully review your prescriptions and choose the best plan that matches your needs. Part D plans can change yearly, so you want to be sure your prescriptions are covered by your plan. Also, be aware of each plan’s preferred pharmacies, where drug pricing can be much lower than non-preferred pharmacy pricing. Also, be careful when identifying whether you take the brand-name or generic prescription drug because this can make a significant difference in your drug costs. Some individuals have saved $25 to $50 per month just on their Part D premium by switching to a plan that best fits their needs. But that’s only part of the story… having the wrong plan could cost you thousands in out-of-pocket drug costs.
Importance of Reviewing your Plans
Remember, you can save thousands of dollars per year in some cases by carefully choosing plans based on your specific health and financial situation. Your best research tool is Medicare’s website www.medicare.gov where you can input your personal data, and they’ll help analyze which plan is best for you.
Kimberly Reynolds, M.S., CFP®, is a Partner and Senior Advisor and serves as the Director of Financial Planning at The Welch Group, LLC, specializing in providing Fee-Only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States. Kimberly is a graduate of The University of Alabama and holds a Master of Science in Human Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Family Financial Planning and Counseling and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. In addition, Kimberly served as an Adjunct Instructor in Tax Planning and Management at The University of Alabama for five years.
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