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Co-Founder of Elite Insurance Partners & MedicareFAQ, a Medicare learning resource center for all Medicare beneficiaries.
In 2022, inflation is an everyday battle among Americans—especially seniors. While on a fixed income, cutting costs and saving money wherever possible is necessary when trying to stretch each dollar.
With the upcoming Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, seniors can change their Medicare selections for 2023. However, dropping coverage is not always the best answer.
The fall Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare occurs between October 15 and December 7. I’m sharing my best tips to ensure you continue to get the most from your Medicare coverage and reduce out-of-pocket healthcare spending.
Consider Switching to a Low-Cost Medicare Part D Plan
Medicare Part D plans change annually. Your carrier will send you an Annual Notice of Change letter each September, notifying you of any changes effective January 1.
This letter outlines any differences in your plan from the current year to the next. These changes can include:
- Monthly premium
- Deductible dollar amount
- Formulary changes
- Preferred pharmacies
Unfortunately, disregarding your Annual Notice of Change letter could lead to issues arising due to the benefit changes. However, once the Annual Enrollment Period is over, you will need to wait until the following Annual Enrollment Period to sign up for a new Medicare Part D plan.
It is important to be aware of the newly passed Inflation Reduction Act. This act implements drug negotiations on behalf of Medicare and makes the following possible:
- A monthly insulin cap of $35 in 2023
- Elimination of catastrophic coverage by 2024
- Removal of the donut hole by 2025
Doing away with the donut hole will cap out-of-pocket costs on all Medicare Part D plans at a $2,000 maximum. Thus, reviewing your drug coverage may not be as essential in the future, but thinking ahead can help you save money.
Adding Medicare Supplement Coverage
Many seniors on Medicare do not realize the value of a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan until it is too late. If you are healthy and hoping to cut spending on healthcare costs, you may think the obvious choice is a zero-premium Medicare Advantage plan. However, this is not always the case.
If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan while you are healthy, out-of-pocket costs may not seem like an issue. But, once you begin using the plan, you may notice your costs going up.
Often, you will spend more over time on Medicare Advantage than you would with a Medigap plan. Unfortunately, it may be too late to switch by the time you realize this.
You must pass medical underwriting to sign up for a Medigap plan outside your once-in-a-lifetime Medigap Open Enrollment window. To do this, you must be free of any significant pre-existing conditions.
Many seniors use the fall Annual Enrollment Period to drop their Medicare Advantage plan and enroll in a Medigap plan if they qualify. Medigap plans cover the costs Original Medicare leaves behind.
Remember that the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period pertains only to Medicare Part C and Part D coverage. However, if you drop your Medicare Advantage plan, it is a great time to pick up Medigap coverage if you can pass underwriting.
Take Advantage Of Additional Benefits Through Medicare Advantage
If a Medicare Supplement plan is not for you, finding a Medicare Advantage plan that meets your needs and has additional benefits will help you get more bang for your buck regarding healthcare coverage.
Depending on your plan, Medicare Advantage additional benefits may include:
- Dental benefits
- Hearing benefits
- Vision benefits
- Free gym memberships
These benefits allow you to receive the healthcare you would otherwise not get through Medicare. So, you can prioritize your health and well-being at no extra cost.
Several Medicare Advantage plans also offer gym membership programs, like SilverSneakers. These perks let you access thousands of workout facilities nationwide.
Medicare Advantage plans may also cover transportation to and from your doctor’s appointments. However, regardless of a plan’s additional benefits, reviewing multiple policies is essential.
Consider A Medicare Part B Give Back Plan
If you cannot qualify for a Medigap plan, it is wise to search for the best possible Medicare Advantage plan for your needs. Some seniors’ main concern is their monthly premium. If this sounds like you, it may be worth searching for a Medicare Advantage Part B give back plan.
This benefit is only available on a limited number of plans in select ZIP codes. So, if your area offers this plan type, you may want to consider it.
These plans add money back to your Social Security check each month up to the standard Medicare Part B premium. There is no income requirement for these plans, but the insurance company will determine how much they reimburse you each month.
However, these plans do not always offer the highest level of coverage. So, when you receive money back from your policy, you can assume the coverage is not as extensive as on other plans. Medicare Part B give back plans often have higher maximum out-of-pocket limits and copayments than Medicare Advantage plans without the feature.
Yet, if the monthly premium is your biggest concern—and you do not often visit the doctor’s office—a Medicare Part B give back plan may be your best option.
Avoid Medicare Penalties During The Annual Enrollment Period
Many seniors who enroll in a Medicare Part D plan but do not take medications feel that their plan is not providing them any benefit. These recipients sometimes opt to leave their Medicare Part D plan during the Annual Enrollment Period. However, this is not a wise decision.
If you leave your Medicare Part D plan, you will begin accruing the Medicare Part D penalty. Then, when you reenroll in coverage, you must pay your plan’s monthly premium plus the late enrollment penalty you accrued.
To avoid this, consider enrolling in a low-cost Medicare Part D plan. You will still receive coverage if something happens over the year. Unfortunately, we cannot predict when our health will dwindle, so staying covered offers you the best shot at financial security.
The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.
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