October 15 marks and important date for many retirees. Medicare will be running its annual Open Enrollment period, a time during which participants can make changes to their coverage depending upon their individual situation. Each year your Medicare program makes small (and sometimes large) changes in coverage, which can greatly impact your healthcare options and out-of-pocket expenses. You can utilize Open Enrollment to maximize personal savings, as well as ensure your health care services match your ongoing needs.
The types of changes you can make include:
- Add a Part D Prescription plan, switch from one Part D Prescription plan to another, or drop your Part D Prescription plan altogether.
- Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or drop an Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare.
- Shift from one Medicare Advantage plan to another Advantage plan that better fits your situation
Open Enrollment begins October 15 and lasts through December 7, giving you time to investigate your options. The first step is to examine your current plan, and make yourself aware of changes coming for 2014. Medicare should send you a notice of any changes to your current program, or you can access this information at www.Medicare.gov
In many cases the changes to your program may be very minor. Occasionally, changes mean services you need are no longer covered, so being informed can protect your health care options. At this point, it is wise to speak to your doctor or look back on conversations from recent appointments. Are you at risk of developing any new conditions, or has your doctor mentioned new procedures or medications you may need soon? If so, it would be wise to make sure your current Medicare program covers these things, and considering switching to a different program if necessary.
Finally, assess your financial situation. Program changes often mean changes to your out-of-pocket expenses. Calculate your spending on health care over the past year, and estimate costs for the coming year. Sometimes it makes sense to switch programs, or add or drop coverage to keep your personal expenses as low as possible.