Choosing a Medicare plan is one of the most important decisions a person can make not only for their well-being, but also for their wallet. And for most people, this is their only chance to make changes to their Medicare coverage for next year.
Charlotte MacBeth, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement in Indiana, explains more:
1. For seniors and other people enrolled in Medicare, why is annual enrollment so important?
o If they don’t make an enrollment decision, they may be locked into their current plan next year. If anything has changed this year, either with their current plan, health status or budget, that decision to do nothing could lead to unpleasant surprises or missed cost-savings in 2019.
• There is no one-size-fits-all approach when shopping for coverage, so people should know about the options available to them and what different Medicare plans can offer.
2. Medicare Annual Enrollment can be confusing for a lot of folks. What advice can you offer to help make the process of choosing a plan easier for people?
• We conducted a survey last year to gauge people’s understanding of Medicare and found that almost 40 percent of beneficiaries found the program confusing. So if you’re feeling that way, you aren’t alone!
• While choosing a Medicare plan can feel complicated, it doesn’t have to be. We’re here to help you navigate the system and find a plan to meet your needs.
• To make shopping for Medicare coverage easier, consider the following:
o As a first step, check your current coverage to see if it still meets your needs. See if your benefits will change next year.
o Determine if the plan is a good fit for your budget. Pay attention to more than just the monthly premium. You should also understand the other out-of-pocket costs, including the deductible, copays and coinsurance.
o Make sure your medications are covered. Even if you don’t expect to change plans, it’s important to make sure the prescriptions you take regularly will still be covered next year. Remember, costs can change from year to year as well.
o Confirm your preferred doctors and hospitals are available through the plan you’re considering.
o Don’t forget about dental, vision and other additional benefits.
For people on Medicare, many are surprised to find that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs and most dental, vision and hearing services. But many Medicare Advantage plans do.
o Take advantage of wellness programs. Many people are surprised to learn that their plan offers benefits, programs and resources that can support them in their efforts to live a healthy life.
3. People are facing some pretty important decisions about their Medicare coverage in the weeks ahead. What are some resources they should be aware of if they’re looking for help or support as they make their decisions?
• There are a lot of great resources out there to make the process of choosing a Medicare plan easier:
o If people would like more information about UnitedHealthcare plans, they can visit UHCMedicareHealthPlans.com or call 1-800-842-6018 (TTY 711).
o For more information about Medicare, visit MedicareMadeClear.com.
4. Medicare Advantage is one of the options people can consider, and it has experienced rapid growth in enrollment over the past few years. What is Medicare Advantage and what is driving that growth?
• Medicare Advantage, which is also called Part C, combines Parts A and B into one plan offered by private insurance companies.
• Medicare Advantage enrollment has grown more than 40 percent over the last five years and now includes about one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries.
• What makes Medicare Advantage appealing to so many people is the value and simplicity it offers.
o It provides the convenience of combining all your coverage into one plan so you have just one card to carry in your wallet and one company to work with.
o Additional benefits and services that Original Medicare doesn’t cover (vision, hearing and dental care, fitness memberships, disease management programs, 24/7 access to health care professionals, [HouseCalls,] [Renew Active] [Navigate4Me] [Solutions for Caregivers] [telehealth services,] etc.).
o Prescription drug coverage is included in most plans.
o Medicare Advantage also offers peace of mind through greater predictability.
Original Medicare generally covers about 80 percent of beneficiaries’ health care costs, leaving them to cover the remaining 20 percent out of pocket with no annual limit.
By contrast, Medicare Advantage plans have annual out-of-pocket maximums, so you know that even if something unexpected happens, your costs are capped.
5. Explain the different “parts” of Medicare… Part A, Part B… what does this all mean?
• Medicare has four main parts – A, B, C and D.
o Original Medicare includes Parts A and B.
Part A covers in-patient care in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, as well as hospice care and some home health care.
Part B covers doctor visits. It also includes outpatient hospital services, some home health services, durable medical equipment and some preventive health care.
• Generally speaking, Part B covers about 80 percent of a person’s health care costs, leaving them to cover the remaining 20 percent out of pocket.
o There’s no annual limit on out-of-pocket costs for Original Medicare.
• Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, combines Parts A and B into one plan and often includes prescription drug coverage and other benefits and feature not included in Original Medicare.
o These plans are offered by private health insurance companies.
• Part D helps with the cost of prescription drugs.
o You can enroll in a stand-alone Part D plan, or most Medicare Advantage plans also include prescription drug coverage.
• In addition to the four main parts of Medicare, there are also Medicare supplement plans, which are sometimes referred to as Medigap plans.
o These plans help cover some of the costs that Medicare Parts A and B don’t pay, such as coinsurance, co-payments and deductibles.