Tips for surviving the Medicare annual enrollment period

Annual enrollment for Medicare ends Dec. 7, so now is the time to check your plan and update coverage for the coming year. While many people stick to the same plan they have used in the past, subtle changes can leave you second guessing what is best for your personal situation.

Some of the most common questions Medicare participants ask during open enrollment include:

  • Will this plan meet my health needs and budget?
  • Will this plan cover the prescription drugs I need?
  • Will I be covered to visit the health care providers I want?

If you have these or other questions, you’re not alone. Take a deep breath and consider these four tips to help you navigate open enrollment with ease.

1. Don’t miss the deadline

Plan to enroll by Dec. 7, 2020. The exception is if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan and want to return to Original Medicare and a standalone Part D plan. If so, you can do that from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14 of each year.

2. Ensure your Medicare plan is offered next year

Plans vary from year to year. Medicare updates terms and changes to how they pay the plans, so it’s important to explore what’s available. If you can’t get your current plan, start researching alternatives to fit your needs.

3. Verify coverage

Many things can change in a Medicare plan, from benefits to provider networks. You’ll receive an annual notice of change that explains adjustments, but you should still take time to compare your existing plan to next year’s offering during enrollment. Questions you may want to keep in mind are:

  • What are monthly premiums and annual deductibles?
  • How much do doctors’ visits cost (co-pays and co-insurance)?
  • Which prescriptions are covered and which are not?
  • Do your current doctors accept this plan?
  • Does the plan include additional coverage, such as dental and vision?

Because your eyes are important, consider complementing your Original Medicare coverage with a VSP Individual Vision Plan. These plans cover glasses or contacts and eye exams, which can help detect glaucoma and other eye problems, as well as health issues like diabetes and hypertension. Overall, VSP typically saves people more than $200 per year on their eye care, and has the largest network of independent doctors, so it’s likely you can keep seeing the doctor you trust.

4. Do your research

If you decide to switch plans, you can use the tools on www.Medicare.gov to get answers to your questions before enrolling. On the website you can enter prescriptions, your pharmacy preference and other details and you’ll learn which plans are right for you. This makes it easy to compare plans and associated costs. Once you decide, you can begin enrollment.

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