The election is getting all the attention right now, but for the more than 62 million Americans currently on Medicare, casting their ballot isn't the only important decision they have to make this November. We're in the midst of the annual Medicare open enrollment period, and if you want to change your plan, you must do so by Dec. 7th. Even if you're happy with the plan you've already got, now's a good time to do the four things listed below.
1. Review your current plan
Review your existing Medicare coverage if you're already enrolled, and decide if you're happy with it or you'd like to make some changes. Look at how your plan's costs and coverage will change in 2021 when making your decision. Premiums are expected to rise slightly, and that could affect which plan best fits into your budget.
Even if you ultimately decide to stay with your current Medicare plan, it helps to understand how your costs will change next year so you can prepare for this when planning how much money you'll withdraw from your retirement accounts in 2021.
2. Think about what coverage you may need in the coming year
As 2020 has reminded us all too well, your health situation can change rapidly. If you've developed a chronic health condition over the past year, that could change the type of Medicare coverage you want moving forward. For example, if you now have to take a prescription medication routinely that you didn't have before, you may want to add a Part D plan so you don't have to pay for these costs entirely out of pocket.
Contracting COVID-19 is an understandable concern, but this shouldn't affect which Medicare plan you choose, because all Medicare plans cover the cost of COVID-19 lab tests and medically necessary hospitalizations. They will also cover the vaccine when one is available.
3. Review the changes to Medicare
Changes to Medicare itself could also affect which Medicare plan appeals the most to you. In the past, individuals with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) weren't able to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan unless there was an ESRD special needs plan in their area. But starting in 2021, they can choose from any of the Medicare Advantage plans available to seniors in their area.
If you fall into this group, this opens up a range of new plan options you may not have had in the past. You might still decide that what you have already is the better choice, but it's worth taking the time to review your options anyway.
4. Enroll in your new plan, if necessary
Should you find a new plan you like better, you must enroll before the Dec. 7th deadline, or you'll have to wait for the start of the next open enrollment period in October 2021 to make changes to your plan. It's best to enroll as soon as you've found a new plan you like, rather than waiting until the last minute. If you run into any hiccups with your application, you'll have time to fix the issue before the open enrollment period ends.
Remember, whatever changes you make to your plan don't go into effect until 2021, so you'll still use your current Medicare plan until the end of the year. If your new plan offers additional services that your existing one doesn't, you must wait until January to take advantage of them.