There's nothing simple about choosing a Medicare plan. While you can make changes to your coverage during open enrollment periods (Oct. 15-Dec. 7), it's not always easy or necessarily cheaper -- especially if you've developed a health problem in the meantime.
Going from one Advantage plan to another and adjusting your Part D coverage is pretty standard -- you should actually regularly review both because premiums change over time -- but switching from Advantage to Medigap or in between Medigaps can be expensive. That's because Medicare allows Medigap to review your health prior to switching.
To avoid future complexity, the best thing you can do is pick a Medicare plan that will support you over the long run. These are the three critical questions you need to ask yourself to ensure you're making the right decision.
1. What benefits might I want or need?
In other words, don't just go with the cheapest plan because it's the cheapest. Think about what kinds of coverage you actually want -- both now and in the future -- to avoid having to go through the potentially costly exercise of switching.
That's because needs might be simple or even nonexistent right now, but that could easily change. Ask yourself about what you need right now and what you might want or need in the future -- that might be top-notch dental coverage or an assurance that any medical devices you may need are fully paid-for.
Remember that comprehensive coverage can also reduce the headache of surprisingly costly and emotionally draining outlays, like a wig should you need to undergo chemotherapy. Medical problems are challenging enough as it is, so if you can make such a situation easier on yourself, at least consider it.
2. What health risks am I facing?
There is nothing fun about this question, for obvious reasons. But most of us have at least some risk factors that we need to look at pretty sternly. After all, today's minor warning sign can develop into tomorrow's major medical problem.
So, if you have the early signs of arthritis, prediabetes, high blood pressure, or any other warning sign that hasn't quite developed into an ailment, take note of it. What kinds of benefits might you need should things go a bit pear-shaped? Make sure to work these benefits into your coverage decision, as they could save you a lot of worry later on.
In the meantime, and this is of course obvious, but use these warning signs as a way to prioritize your health. It's good to have the coverage in place, but it's much better if you don't have to use it at all.
3. What discounts can I get?
If you're considering an Advantage plan, take a few extra minutes to see if you can't scare up a discount. This might put one plan at the very forefront of the contenders, and it's always worth a try.
There are many stories out there of discounts that aren't advertised on various providers' websites, so be sure to make a phone call to ask each plan provider to see what might be available. And hey, even if you don't get one, at least you asked!
Armed with all of this information, you can make the wisest Medicare choice for yourself -- not only for today, but for tomorrow.