Many seniors on Medicare struggle to pay for healthcare during retirement and wind up spending an uncomfortably large chunk of their Social Security benefits on that single expense. If you've been having a hard time keeping up with your medical bills, it's easy to point a finger at Medicare and chalk it up to the program being too expensive, on the whole.
But actually, the specific Medicare coverage you choose will dictate how much you ultimately spend out of pocket year after year. And if you've been grappling with high costs, it pays to consider switching your coverage while you can. In this regard, there's good news and bad news.
The good news is that Medicare has an annual open enrollment period during which participants can switch plans and, ideally, eke out some savings. The bad news is that open enrollment is almost over. In fact, it wraps up on Dec. 7, so if you want to make changes for 2021, you'll need to get moving immediately. But here are a few signs that you may want to switch your coverage while you can.
1. It's a struggle to find doctors in your network
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may be entitled to certain benefits that original Medicare won't cover, like dental care and vision exams. But in exchange, your plan may be limiting you to an extremely narrow provider network, which could, in turn, be making it difficult for you to get the care you need. In fact, you may have incurred some costs by virtue of having to stray from your provider network.
If that's the case, you have a couple of choices. You can either drop your current Advantage plan and switch to a different one or drop Advantage altogether and revert back to original Medicare.
2. Your medication needs have changed
If you have a Part D drug plan, you may have signed up for it initially because it offered good coverage for the specific prescriptions you were taking at the time. But if you've since dropped or added prescriptions, switching to a different plan could save you some money.
Rather than assume that it pays to keep your plan, explore your coverage options, keeping in mind that you'll need to look beyond just premiums when making your decision. Specifically, you'll want to see what tiers the prescriptions you take fall into, because if your medications are designated higher-tier by a given plan, you'll pay more for them.
3. You could really benefit from non-medical perks
If you have a chronic condition, like asthma or diabetes, you may find that Medicare Advantage is a better, more cost-effective fit than original Medicare. Why? A number of Advantage plans offer supplemental lifestyle benefits that aren't medical in nature but contribute to a better quality of existence.
Generally, to qualify for these benefits, you'll need to be diagnosed with a chronic condition. But say you have asthma. The right Advantage plan could pay for regular carpet cleanings and air filters for your home to help you better manage your condition. Those benefits themselves aren't medical, per se, but could be covered nonetheless. And that, in turn, could result in savings for you.
At this point, the clock is rapidly ticking down toward the end of open enrollment, so if you're inspired to change your Medicare coverage, act now. If you don't, you'll need to wait a full year to make adjustments that could put a serious amount of money back in your pocket and make your retirement more affordable.