It’s easy to make mistakes when it comes to Medicare. And the biggest one to avoid is to not take charge of evaluating your Medicare coverage every year.
Medicare Annual Enrollment (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7) is your chance to take charge and make sure your plan still meets your health care needs. Here are some common mistakes that you don’t want to make during this time—and why.
Mistake 1. Automatically Renewing Your Medicare Plan Without Reviewing It First
Your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan renews every year on January 1, unless you decide to change it. Automatic renewal may sound like a great thing, but it may not always be the best Medicare decision.
Medicare Advantage and Part D plans can change what health benefits and prescription drugs they cover from year to year. They may also change what you will pay in deductible, premium, copay or coinsurance amounts.
Insurance companies review their plans each year to make sure they’re still viable, so it would be a mistake to not review your plan’s coverage details and just let it automatically renew.
Mistake 2. Ignoring Your Plan’s Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)
Following up to the above point about reviewing your coverage, before AEP begins, you will receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) from your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan that identifies any plan changes. This document explains any changes in your plan benefits or costs for the upcoming year. The changes may affect your health care and your budget.
Learn about what to look for in your ANOC, including questions to help you understand plan changes and what they may mean for you.
Mistake 3. Basing Your Plan Choice on Plan Premiums
It’s easy to focus only on plan premiums when looking at Medicare costs. But the premium is only one small part of what you can pay for Medicare. It’s important to look at all the costs you could have – premiums, copays, deductibles, coinsurance and how each works with your coverage. You’ll also need to think about how frequently you use health care services and items as that will also influence how much you pay.
For example, a plan with a low monthly premium may charge a large deductible or have high copayments. You might prefer this if you rarely go to the doctor and don’t take many medications. But a plan like this could be expensive if you use health care services often, even with the low premium.
It’s important to think about all the out-of-pocket costs as well as your health care needs when choosing a plan.
Mistake 4. Picking A Plan Because Your Spouse or Friend Did
Medicare is individual insurance. And while you might count on a friend’s word when deciding what new restaurant to try, it’s probably not a great idea to make your Medicare coverage decisions based on a friend’s or spouse’s recommendations alone. What works for one person’s health may not fit with the needs of another.
Mistake 5. Assuming You Won’t Qualify for Medicare Financial Help
Several programs offer financial assistance with Medicare premiums and other costs. You may want to look into them, even if you think you might not be eligible. You can learn about these here.
Mistake 6. Not Signing Up in Time
The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period only runs from October 15 through December 7. The last big mistake you can make when it comes to Medicare is failing to enroll during this time if you have decided to get new coverage. If you miss this time period –and are not currently in your Initial Enrollment Period or a Special Enrollment Period – you will have to wait until the following year’s AEP to get new coverage.
NOTE: The exception here is for people with Medicare Advantage who qualify to make changes during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, January 1 through March 31.
Take Advantage of Medicare Annual Enrollment
Medicare Annual Enrollment exists so that you have a chance to review your Medicare coverage and make changes if you want to. The best decision you can make for your health is to take advantage of this opportunity to review your current coverage and make sure your health care needs will be met for the coming year.