5 tips to prepare you for Medicare open enrollment

A doctor looks at a clipboard. (Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels.)

It’s that time of year again when millions of Americans across the country will have the opportunity to select or switch their health insurance benefits for the coming year.

Choosing a Medicare plan is one of the most important decisions a person can make -- not only for their health and wellbeing, but also for their wallet.

The time to make a change

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 each year, is an opportunity for consumers to assess carriers’ new Medicare plans, and it gives people the chance to make changes or confirm their coverage for the next year.

If anything has changed this year, either with a current plan, health status or budget, a decision to do nothing could lead to unpleasant surprises or missed cost-savings in 2022. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when shopping for Medicare coverage, so people should take time to understand the options available.

Choosing what fits you best

Choosing a health plan may feel overwhelming, so here are a handful of tips to help pick the best health insurance plan for you.

1. Know the lingo. For example, understanding what a premium, deductible or co-insurance is can help you make informed decisions. If you want to decode it all, a website like Medicare.gov is a great place to start.

2. Check your current coverage to see if it still meets your health needs, and see if your benefits will change next year. Then, determine if the plan is still a good fit for your budget. That means paying attention to more than just the monthly premium. You should also understand the other out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and copays, as these costs can add up.

3. Know how to get the most out of your prescription benefits. This can help you manage the logistics and cost of your medications. For example, check with your health plan or doctor to see if lower-cost pharmacy options that include generics and mail order might work for you.

*Many people may be surprised to find out that Original Medicare doesn’t generally cover prescription drugs. You may want to consider a Part D plan or a Medicare Advantage plan to help keep your medication costs in check.

Another consideration is a plan that offers 24/7 virtual visits. It’s not always easy to make time for an in-office doctor’s appointment. You can talk to a doctor about common health issues in real time right from your device in the comfort of your own home.

4. Manage your mental health. This is an important step of caring for your overall well-being. In addition to in-person behavioral health care, consider looking for a health plan that also offers access to a large virtual health network of therapists and psychiatrists. Some health insurers also offer advocacy services to help members find the right therapist and care.

5. Expecting a big change next year like an upcoming surgery? A good rule of thumb is to compare differences between plan designs and out-of-pocket limits to be as prepared as you can for what’s around the corner.

If you are already taking steps towards better health, many health plans will reward you for the hard work, offering financial incentives for exercising, not smoking, even taking a health survey. Many Medicare Advantage plans even offer gym memberships at no additional cost.

You can learn more about the quality of plans in your area by using the Plan Finder tool on Medicare.gov or by calling the upcoming Medicare phone bank, where you can speak with a licensed insurance agent live, without obligation. Call 866-956-4749 to get the answers you need.

*Calling this number will direct you to a licensed insurance agent.