Now that we're a couple of weeks into Medicare's annual open enrollment period, it's time to get serious about exploring your coverage options for 2023. Some seniors don't take the time to look into different plans during open enrollment because they think the process is too confusing, or because they assume that the coverage they have already is most appropriate. But if you don't make a change during fall open enrollment, these consequences might ensue.
1. You could end up paying a higher premium for your plan
During open enrollment, you can switch from one Part D drug plan to another, or switch Medicare Advantage plans. If you don't make a change, you might end up bearing the cost of higher plan premiums in 2023 -- either because those that apply to your existing plan are rising, or because there's a less expensive alternative you didn't explore.
Now many seniors are limited to a fixed income that consists largely (if not solely) of Social Security benefits. If that's the boat you're in, then you really don't want to get stuck paying a dollar more than you have to for a Medicare plan.
2. You could end up with higher copays for medication
All Medicare Part D plans have a formulary that groups medications into different tiers -- and the higher the tier, the higher your out-of-pocket costs. Those formularies, however, can change from one year to the next. And if that's happening within your Part D plan and you don't make an effort to find another one, you could end up having to spend a lot more money on medication in the new year.
3. You may have to stop seeing the doctors you trust
One reason many seniors prefer Medicare Advantage to original Medicare is that it tends to offer a wider range of benefits. But Advantage plans also tend to limit enrollees to a specific network of providers that can change from year to year.
If you hang on to your current Medicare Advantage plan for 2023 but it turns out your favorite doctors will be out of network next year, you might have a real hassle on your hands. And so if keeping your trusted providers is important to you, then it pays to seek out a plan that allows you to do that.
Make the effort
To be clear, you may do your research during open enrollment and come to the conclusion that the Medicare coverage you have right now is the most suitable coverage for you. And that's OK.
The point, however, is that you should at least explore your options for changing plans, even if you're happy with the coverage you have already. Putting in a little time and effort could result in big savings on healthcare expenses come 2023. And at a time when you need to stretch your income, that's important.
Meanwhile, open enrollment is set to run all the way through Dec. 7. So even if you didn't start exploring your plan choices on Oct. 15, when that period first kicked off, you still have plenty of opportunity to make changes for 2023.