Shopping for health insurance isn't most people's idea of fun, and if you've already got a Medicare plan, you might be thinking about skipping it this year. But that could be a bad decision. Health insurance plans change from year to year, including what's covered and what you pay out of pocket. If you want to avoid surprises, make sure you take the following steps before Medicare open enrollment ends on Dec. 7th.
Review your current plan
Look over your current Medicare plan to see what's changed for the new plan year. You should have received a Plan Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) outlining your current policy's coverage and costs for 2022.
Most people's eyes go straight to the premiums, but that's not the only thing you should pay attention to. You should also look at what your out-of-pocket maximum is for the new year and whether the list of doctors and hospitals in the policy's provider network has changed. Seniors taking prescription drugs should also verify that their medications will still be covered in 2022.
If you notice any significant changes, you have to ask yourself whether you're comfortable keeping the plan.
See what else is out there
Even if your current plan isn't looking too bad, it's a good idea to explore what other plans have to offer. You might find one that offers all the same essential coverage options at a more affordable rate. Or maybe there's one that offers a lower out-of-pocket maximum, which can provide some peace of mind to seniors who visit the doctor frequently.
This part of the process can feel overwhelming, but there are things you can do to make it easier. First, go into the experience with a clear idea of what's important to you. Think about your budget, key coverage needs, and nearby hospital facilities, and then come up with a list of three to five must-haves. Just focus on those when searching for a new policy.
Many sites have comparison tools. Leveraging these makes it easier to compare plan features and costs side by side. Usually, all you have to do is select a few plans you're interested in, and then you'll get a full breakdown of their important features in an easy-to-digest table.
Consider Medicare Advantage plans too
Original Medicare consists of part A (hospital insurance) and part B (medical insurance). Seniors can also add an optional Part D plan to pay for their prescription medications. But there's also Part C -- Medicare Advantage plans.
These plans are designed to replace Original Medicare. They're offered by private health insurers, but the federal government subsidizes their costs. They cover everything you'd get with parts A and B as well as other things that Original Medicare doesn't cover. This can include prescription drugs and sometimes dental and vision care.
Because they're offered through private companies, they can have smaller provider networks. But if the facilities near you are in the network, this might not be an issue.
I know it's not the most exciting way to spend an afternoon. But if you set aside just an hour or two to compare healthcare plans and you follow the steps above, you can set yourself up for a more comfortable 2022.