Answer these questions before exploring new Medicare plan options.
So if you decide you want to change your Medicare coverage, it’s important to first clearly identify what you’re looking for in a new plan. And you won’t know unless you ask some questions.
Ask: Have my health care needs changed?
Things change in life, and some changes may affect the kind or amount of health care you need. For example:
- A new diagnosis might mean more doctor visits or new medications
- An advancing illness may increase the number or length of hospital stays or require home care
- Additional medications may be needed to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis or heart disease
- Maybe you have a planned surgery coming up.
Examples like these can help get you thinking, but what’s important is to look carefully at your health care needs – past, present and, as much as possible, future. Only then can you choose the type of coverage and specific plans that may best meet your personal needs.
Once you have a good handle on your health care needs, it’s time to look at your current coverage.
Ask: What benefits did my plan not have that I want to have?
Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans may change costs and coverage from year to year. You may have lost benefits you loved and that’s why you’re shopping around. Or, you may have never had them in the past and you want them now. In either case, make a list of the health benefits you want such as dental, vision or hearing coverage. Once you have your list, now you know what kind of plan you should look at and what benefits it must have.
Ask: How much money can I afford to spend on health care?
It may seem like a scary question to answer but it’s an important one. Take some time to look at how much you spent overall on health care costs in the last year. Then, you can look at different plans and how their cost sharing works for each. Compare plan costs by taking a look at your current health needs and try to estimate how much you may spend in the year to come. This will help you get an idea of the financial responsibility each plan may come with and if it will fit your lifestyle and budget.
Remember, You Have A Set Time to Decide
The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period runs October 15 through December 7. This is the only time each year anyone with Medicare coverage can make changes (outside of some special periods just for Medicare Advantage and Part D beneficiaries).
Automatic renewal is a great way to go if you feel confident that the coverage you already have will fit your needs going forward. It’s easy and convenient – but once open enrollment is over on December 7, your chance to change your Medicare coverage for next year is over, too, unless you move or otherwise qualify for a special exception. You get to choose the Medicare coverage that you think best fits your needs each year during this time. You may choose to let your current coverage renew. Or you may choose something different. The important thing is to choose.