Are You Making These Costly Medicare Mistakes?
Scientific research has confirmed that the human mind is basically lazy, and an abundance of choices, (more than 3) completely shuts down the decision-making process. Drug and Medicare Advantage insurers know this, and take advantage of this tendency. Insurers low-ball rates of new plans, and then increase premiums and out-of-pocket costs every year thereafter, because they know few people will ever switch plans to save money. But this does not have to be you. Comparing and switching plans isn’t hard, especially when you can call and get free, unbiased help. Checking your health and drug plan options during Medicare’s fall Open Enrollment period October 15 – December 7, 2018 is your chance to save your household budget and get access to more affordable prescription meds.
Here are a few Medicare goofs that you can avoid:
- Failing to read the Annual Notice of Change from your health and drug plans. Medicare Part D drug plans and Medicare Advantage health plans send a fat letter and booklet about the changes for the following year by September or early October. Read it — or at the very least, the pages listing changes in premium, deductible, cost sharing or co-pays, drug tiers and coverage changes. Check for increases in premiums, changes in deductibles, or co-pays for the drugs you take. Check that your doctor and hospitals continue to participate in your Medicare Advantage health plan. You will need to be familiar with these items in order to compare other plans.
- Enrolling in the same drug or Medicare Advantage plan as your spouse, or because you recognize the name of the company. Does your spouse use the very same drugs as you do? To find your lowest-costing drug plan, you need to choose based on the prescriptions that you take. A good plan for your spouse may be terrible choice for you. It’s particularly important to compare options if you use a high-priced brand name drug. Prices can vary significantly between plans, and some plans may not even cover the drugs you need. If you are looking for the lowest-costing Medicare Advantage plan, you also need to know if your doctors and hospitals are participating providers.
- Failing to use Medicare’s drug and health plan finder to track down your lowest-costing plan. On average, most people covered by Medicare have 21 Medicare Advantage plans or a similar number of Part D plans to wade through – too many to make sense of. The quickest and best way to find your lowest-costing choice based on your prescriptions is online, using the Medicare drug and health plan finder at www.Medicare.gov. Click the box that says “Find health & drug plans”. Look for the tutorial video to help you get started, or follow the prompts and enter the prescriptions that you take. Your search results will start with your lowest-costing choices at the top of the list.
- Failing to get free, one-on-one counseling. Even if you are tech savvy and comfortable using the Medicare drug and health plan finder, it’s still worth getting professional counseling, at least the first time you go through the process of comparing plans. There may be some information that you are missing or haven’t thought through. For example, your premium and drug costs may be less if you opt for a plan with a deductible. Or, you may not be worried enough about the highest tier co-insurance because you use generics. Pause to think at least how a 50% co-insurance could break the bank if your doctor discovers diabetes, or some other expensive condition, and your co-pay could exceeds $300 a month for just one drug. You can get free one-on-one counseling through your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Many of these programs operate through your regional area agency on aging, local community health or senior centers. You can find a contact near you at: https://www.shiptacenter.org.