With Medicare's annual open enrollment period still in full swing, many seniors are now contemplating their plan choices for 2021. If you're currently enrolled in original Medicare, you may be thinking of switching over to a Medicare Advantage plan. For the upcoming year, the average enrollee will have access to 33 distinct Advantage choices that could provide significant savings (though seniors in rural areas will have far fewer options).
There's more to think about when choosing your Medicare coverage than savings. You'll also need to think about the way your plan could impact the lifestyle you maintain as a senior. The right Medicare Advantage plan could actually be your ticket to living longer.
You get what you pay for
Medicare Advantage plans frequently offer benefits that original Medicare does not. These include commonly used services like dental care, vision exams, and hearing aids. Many Medicare Advantage plans also offer supplemental benefits that impact quality of life: transportation to and from doctor appointments, meal delivery service, carpet cleaning, and in-home air purifiers.
Of course, not all Advantage plans are created equal, and some offer more robust benefits than others. Those plans tend to charge more, especially given that many Advantage plans actually offer a $0 premium. Paying for those pricier plans could work to your benefit if your goal is to live a long life.
A new study by researchers at Northwestern, Yale, Brown, and the University of Chicago found a link between expensive Medicare Advantage plans that cover the most healthcare services and offer the most benefits and increased life spans. Choices and outcomes were studied in 75,000 Advantage plans across 15 million enrollees between 2008 and 2011. Researchers noted a significant and positive relationship between higher monthly Advantage plan premiums and increased longevity.
It's important to take this data with a grain of salt. A link between higher-cost Advantage plans and longer life spans doesn't automatically imply a cause and effect relationship. Wealthier seniors are more likely to be in a position to afford costlier Advantage plans -- but the wealthy also have better longevity rates than the poor.
Still, it's possible that a more generous Medicare Advantage plan could improve your quality of life. That's reason enough to spring for one if your finances allow for it.
A better health plan could give you access to wellness services like gym memberships and fitness classes. The less you have to stress over which services are or aren't covered, the more content you're apt to be.
As you navigate your plan choices during open enrollment, consider paying up for a Medicare Advantage plan in 2021. If you have a substantial nest egg to dip into, you may find that a superior plan works wonders for your immediate health.