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Some of the most common questions we get when meeting with our financial planning clients that have retired or are thinking about retirement revolve around medical cost. It is no wonder this is such a common area of discussion with all the current unknowns around healthcare. One thing that is known is healthcare costs have traditionally increased at a rate double the overall rate of inflation since 2011, when the first baby boomers hit age 65. This trend is not set to change for the foreseeable future. These facts make healthcare costs a bogey that can trip up a sound financial plan if not considered carefully.

Just like reviewing your overall financial plan at least annually is important to make sure you are still on track, reviewing your healthcare plan is just as important.

Our healthcare needs change from year to year, and making sure your Medicare coverage is appropriate for your health situation is important to keeping your healthcare cost as low as possible.

Medicare’s open enrollment period happens once a year between October 15 and December 7. During this time, current Medicare beneficiaries have the option to adjust their coverage for the coming year. This can be a useful option for those who may have recently changed medication, underutilized their current coverage, or found they could use additional benefits.

How to Search For Medicare Plan Options

It shouldn’t take a ton of research to determine what your current coverage is and what options are available for you during this coming enrollment period. You should receive information from the government regarding your current Medicare coverage each year. Even if your coverage hasn’t changed within the last few years, it’s important to still take time to review your current coverage and identify any areas for improvement. 

There are tools available online or by phone to learn more about other plans if you’re thinking about switching or changing coverage. Medicare offers a Plan Finder tool online or you can call 1-800-MEDICARE to find out about new Advantage plans in your area. Or, check out the State Health Insurance Assistance Program site to find help in your state.

Can Anyone Make Changes During the Open Enrollment Period?

Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period is only for those who are already existing Medicare beneficiaries. 

If you have yet to sign up for Medicare, your period to do so runs between the three months before and three months after you turn 65.1 If you miss this initial enrollment period, you can not sign up for Medicare during the open enrollment period beginning in October. Instead, you must wait until Medicare’s general enrollment period, which runs from January 1 through March 31.

Are Changes Made During Open-Enrollment Effective Immediately?

No, the changes you elect to make during Medicare’s open enrollment period will not go into effect until January 1, 2022. 

What Changes Can Be Made During Medicare’s Open Enrollment?

During the open enrollment period, you are eligible to change your Medicare coverage, and you also have the option to switch between different Medicare plans. Below are few coverage options you can choose to add, drop or adjust depending on your needs for the new year.

Medigap Coverage

Medigap is a supplemental insurance policy designed to help cover the costs of certain medical expenses that Medicare doesn’t cover. Your medigap policy may cover expenses such as:

  • Copayments
  • Coinsurance
  • Deductibles
  • Medical care when traveling abroad

Whether you’ve had Medigap coverage in the past or you’d find it beneficial moving forward, you can adjust, add or drop your Medigap coverage during open enrollment.

Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage (or Part C) is a type of healthcare plan offered by private companies contracted through Medicare. It’s designed to combine Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) as well as, in some instances, offer a prescription drug plan or other additional coverage.

During open enrollment, you can choose to switch back to an original Medicare plan, if you found that Medicare Advantage did not fit your needs. Alternatively, you are also free to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan from an original Medicare plan during this period. Be sure to shop around for different options, as you’ll have several choices from various providers when it comes to choosing a Medicare Advantage plan. 

Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Plan)

If you are utilizing a Medicare Advantage plan, this may not apply to you. But for those who have an original Medicare plan, it’s important to check for changes to your Part D coverage every year. Coverage through your plan can change yearly, and your prescription needs may change as well. Make sure your current plan has your needs covered through the next year. If not, now’s the time to look around for new coverage.

Medical expenses can add up quickly, especially if your current coverage is not tailored to address your needs. Use this time to shop around for any changes that could be beneficial for the upcoming year. 

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