Millions of seniors rely on Medicare for health coverage, but that coverage isn't the same for everyone. That's because enrollees get choices when it comes to Medicare Part D drug plans. They can also choose whether to sign up for original Medicare versus Medicare Advantage, and within the realm of Advantage plans, there can be many options.
Of course, electing the right coverage under Medicare can be tricky, given the choices at hand. But the good news is that seniors who aren't happy with their coverage don't get stuck with it forever.
Each fall, Medicare kicks off its open-enrollment period. At that point, seniors get seven weeks to review their plan choices and decide if it pays to make changes to their coverage.
It turns out that 71% of Medicare beneficiaries don't explore their coverage options during open enrollment, according to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And that's a mistake many seniors might regret.
The importance of choosing the right coverage
Healthcare is one of the most substantial costs seniors face. And those who get the bulk of their income from Social Security often struggle to keep up with it.
That's why it's so important to review your Medicare-plan choices year after year. Making changes could result in more comprehensive coverage and fewer out-of-pocket costs.
One thing you should be aware of is that Medicare plans can change from year to year. And sometimes, those changes aren't beneficial.
Say you take a few medications that are grouped into a relatively inexpensive tier under your Part D drug plan. If your plan recategorizes those prescriptions into a higher tier, your costs could rise.
Similarly, your Medicare Advantage plan might drop certain supplemental benefits that make your plan the most cost-effective. Or your plan might drop some of your providers.
The good news is that no matter what type of plan you're on, you'll receive a notice of any changes in time to make a coverage switch during open enrollment. But if you don't bother to review those changes or explore other plan choices, you might really lose out.
Even if your plan isn't changing for the worse, there may still be a better plan out there for you. And spending a little time researching your options could result in big savings.
Open enrollment runs from October 15 through December 7, which means you have plenty of time to look into your coverage choices. If you don't make any changes, you'll retain the same coverage you currently have for 2022.
If you're on Medicare Advantage, one thing you should know is that if you decide to switch your coverage but regret your decision afterward, you have options. Medicare Advantage actually has its own open-enrollment period that runs from January 1 through March 31, and during that time, you're able to choose a different Advantage plan or move off of Advantage and onto original Medicare.
But if you're on original Medicare and have a Part D drug plan, the coverage you choose this fall will remain in place for all of 2022. So it especially pays to start the process of vetting plans early.
Of course, you may decide that the coverage you currently have is the most suitable for you. But it's a good idea to do your research before drawing that conclusion.