INDIANAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Medicare’s primary sales season, known as the Annual Election Period, or AEP, starts Oct. 15 and continues through Dec. 7. It is the time each year when most people can buy or change Medicare plans, but it’s important for buyers to do their homework first.
There is much to compare, particularly for health plans offered through private health insurers, called Medicare Advantage (MA). These plans often offer additional benefits – like dental and vision coverage – as well as things like fitness plans, online doctor visits and care coordination for people with certain chronic conditions.
“Premiums and benefits are different depending on the plan, so it’s important for people to look at these differences to make sure their plans meet their needs,” said Martin Esquivel, Anthem’s vice president of Medicare product management.
By the end of September, people with current Medicare coverage should have received a notice from their health insurer listing any changes to their MA plan for the coming year. If these changes are acceptable, then they don’t need to do anything to keep their plan. But, if they want to explore other options, then it’s time to start doing so.
For those in the market for a new plan, following are some important tips to consider when shopping for coverage.
Examine the plan’s list of covered drugs. Different plans have different lists of covered drugs, called formularies. Consumers should check to see if their drugs are covered and at what cost, particularly if they’ve gotten new prescriptions since they last picked their health insurance plan. And different plans offer different benefits.
Review the provider network. MA plans include networks in which members must seek care or pay higher costs. Consumers should check to make sure that their hospitals, doctors and pharmacies are included in these networks.
Consider the extra costs. When making a decision, consumers should weigh not only the plan’s monthly premium, but other out-of-pocket costs, like copays, coinsurance and annual out-of-pocket maximums.
Look for bells and whistles. One of the pluses for MA plans is the extras, such as fitness plans, nurse health lines, online doctor visits, dental and vision coverage, and care coordination for people with certain chronic conditions. Consumers should compare plans to see what they offer.
Explore the possibility of extra help. Those with limited income may qualify for financial assistance with their premiums. Anyone who thinks they may qualify can check their eligibility by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/extrahelp or calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) for details.
More information about all MA plans available in a certain area can be found at www.Medicare.gov.