Shopping for insurance can feel tedious and overwhelming. Perhaps that's why many Medicare beneficiaries opt to stay in their current plan, even if it's the one they were auto-enrolled into when they became Medicare-eligible.
Medicare open enrollment offers a chance to review your benefits, decide whether your plan is working for you, and switch to another option. Read on for more details about why reviewing your Medicare plan during open enrollment is so important.
New Medicare Advantage Plans Each Year
One of the most important reasons to review your plan options is that new Medicare Advantage plans become available each year. In 2020, there were 3,148 Medicare Advantage plans available nationwide. This includes 855 special needs plans, which cater to people with specific chronic conditions or long-term care needs.
If you have original Medicare, a Medicare Advantage plan may cover additional services, such as vision and dental care. If you already use Medicare Advantage, a different plan might better serve your needs. Reviewing your options can help you select the plan that best fits your current health and financial realities.
Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D is prescription drug coverage. If you were auto-enrolled in Medicare, your plan won't include Part D. Prescription drug coverage can save you time and money, especially if you take several medications or have a medical condition that will eventually require medication. So review your Part D options during open enrollment, even if you are otherwise happy with your plan.
As your life needs change, so too might your Medicare needs. If you move to a nursing home or develop a chronic illness, a Medicare Advantage special needs plan might be a good option. Similarly, a plan that once covered all of your medical needs might not cover everything you need if you begin taking new medications or seeing a specialist. Some signs that you may need to change your plan include:
- You are paying more out-of-pocket for medical expenses.
- You have a new prescription drug and do not have prescription drug coverage.
- You have switched doctors, or are seeing new doctors who do not accept your current plan.
- You have not evaluated your plan options in several years.
Choosing Your Plan
Medicare plan ratings can help guide your decisions. Start by looking for a plan with a gold star next to its name. Then compare gold-star plans based on your specific health needs, such as whether a doctor or specialist you like is covered. The Medicare open enrollment period is usually from October 15 through December 7. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you can switch to a new plan or opt for original Medicare during the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period, which is usually from January 1 through March 31.