How long have you had the same Medicare Part D drug plan? If it’s been a few years, check out this story.
Debra has had her drug plan for six years. She thinks the monthly premium of $49 might be a bit high but she pays only $10 a month for her two medications. She absolutely loves the plan.
After a short conversation, she’s not so much in love any more. Debra could have saved over $500 this year if she had checked out plans during last year’s Open Enrollment Period. She takes two generic medications so plans with the lowest monthly premium (in her area, around $16) would have met her needs. Plus, there would have been no copayment for her two medications.
The same advice holds true for those who have a Medicare Advantage plan. Costs and coverage can change every year.
The Open Enrollment Period is from October 15-December 7. Evaluate your plan’s costs and coverage for next year against other plans available. You just might find more money in your pocket and not on the table.
Learn about important Open Enrollment Period dates at www.65incorporated.com/topics/medicare-open-enrollment-period/open-enrollment-timeline.
For the last three years, the monthly premium for Medicare Part B, medical insurance, has been $104.90 and the annual deductible $147. That is about to change. The Medicare trustees are predicting the 2016 premium will be $159.30, an increase of $54.40. Only about 30% of Part B beneficiaries will have to pay this new amount. That’s because the other 70% are subject to the “hold harmless” provision and will continue to pay $104.90 every month.
Here’s what hold harmless means. In 2016, experts predict there will be no increase in the Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA). With no COLA, any increase in the Part B premium would hurt beneficiaries who are on Social Security now. They would have to dip into savings to cover the difference. However, Part B costs are rising and someone has to cover them. These higher costs will be spread over fewer beneficiaries, including new Medicare enrollees in 2016, those not on Social Security, and anyone subject to the Income-related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA).
It’s not just the premium that will cause pain. The annual deductible for 2016 is projected to be $223, up from $76 this year. Remember, these amounts are projections, subject to change. It's all but certain, the amounts will increase.
Alert: Drug costs are increasing, too. Be sure to pay attention to what’s happening with your drug plan in 2016. If you would like expert help, check out 65 Incorporated’s Open Enrollment Tune-up at https://www.65incorporated.com/personalized-medicare-enrollment-consultation/open-enrollment-consultation/.
I get into many conversations about Medicare with people I meet. They tell me when they enrolled and how things are working. I tend to ask, “What type of coverage did you pick?” The common reply, “What do you mean?” I respond, “Did you go with Original Medicare and a supplement or elect a Medicare Advantage plan?” With a strange look on their face, they go right for their wallet and produce some cards. Then, we have a discussion about Medicare, the path they selected, and what the cards represent. For many, it’s the first time they’ve heard about the two paths, Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage. And, sometimes, they’re stunned to learn about important implications or consequences.
If you’re getting ready to enroll in Medicare, take time to understand the ins and outs, the pros and cons of each Medicare path and the coverage you choose.
Need some help making those important Medicare decisions? Check out https://www.65incorporated.com/personalized-medicare-enrollment-consultation/personalized-medicare-enrollment-consultation/.
We were planning an anniversary party. My wine collector husband wanted to serve some bottles from our collection to the guests. The marketing manager at the first venue we visited said we couldn’t do that because of state laws. Okay. Then, we visited a second place. When we asked about serving our wine, the marketing managed said, “No problem.” The hotel would charge a corkage fee. As we left the hotel, I said, “Do you recall crossing the State line?” If the first hotel only wanted to sell its wine, it should have said, “Our policy does not allow that.” Don’t blame it on State law.
This can happen with Medicare, too. A client contacted us about “recent changes in Medicare regulations” that mean he now has copayments for doctors’ visit he didn’t pay last year. I informed him there were no rule changes. Medicare doesn’t set visit rates for Medicare Advantage plans; it was simply his Medicare plan revising its payment structure. It was probably easier for the plan representative to blame the cost increases on Medicare.
Learn more about Medicare Advantage plans at https://www.65incorporated.com/topics/medicare-advantage/ and https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/medicare-health-plans/medicare-advantage-plans/medicare-advantage-plans.html.
After a long day of meetings, I stopped at the office to check messages. I thought the first caller was having a heart attack. She had been covered by her husband’s plan and he had just lost his job. She called Social Security to find out how to get into Medicare. The agent said she had to wait until January to enroll and Medicare would begin on July 1. She has health issues and can’t go that long without coverage. What was she going to do?
She wasn’t a client but, as a nurse, I had to intervene so I called her right back. After having her take a few deep breaths, I asked a couple questions about the coverage she had. I realized the agent had mixed up the Medicare enrollment periods. She was eligible to enroll right now and coverage would begin the first of next month. I told her to call Social Security again and the words to use. The next day, she reported that her enrollment was in process and she would have coverage next month. Lesson learned: Sometimes (unfortunately), it’s necessary to hang up and call again.