Annual Medicare Enrollment Is the Time to Curb Rising Healthcare Costs

Open enrollment helps you improve your Medicare choices.

Planning your Medicare Coverage can save you money.
Medicare open enrollment is the perfect time to review your needs. Cultura / Rafe Swan Cultura Exclusive / Getty Images

Too many seniors don't pay attention to the Medicare annual open enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. Year by year, however, the healthcare plan that you chose when you first enrolled may no longer match your healthcare needs or your budget. Open enrollment is the time to make changes that fit your situation.

One study in Health Affairs found that 95 percent of Medicare beneficiaries were overpaying for their Part D prescription drug plans, some by as much as $500 annually.

Medicare costs can add up over time. This is a good reason for healthcare costs to be a part of retirement planning with your financial advisor.

For Medicare beneficiaries, annual enrollment is one time of year when you can take action to influence your finances through better healthcare choices, including your choice of Part D prescription drug plans or Medicare Advantage plans.

Consider the following factors that signal it is time to revisit your Medicare plan during the annual enrollment period.

1. Medicare Advantage plans change. For example, in 2014, health insurance carriers added 309 Medicare Advantage plans and removed 378 plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In addition, insurance carriers may revise monthly premiums and specific plan provisions, so it’s important to evaluate these changes each year.

2. Prices go up, sometimes a lot, for Part D drug plans. Depending on where you live, there may be 40 or more Part D plans available.

Shopping between all of these offerings takes time and requires attention to the details. Yes, it may seem easier to remain with the same plan. But in 2014, 6 of the 10 most popular Part D prescription drug plans saw their premiums increase by 10 percent or more, Kaiser reported. Double-digit cost increases are nothing to sneeze at.

3. It may be a time to reassess Medigap. While annual enrollment doesn’t allow for Medigap plan changes in most states, it may be time to review supplemental plan costs and compare them to the alternative Medicare Advantage plans. Medigap plans can increase on an annual basis or as you hit certain age milestones. One benefit of Medicare annual enrollment is what’s known as a “trial right” to use a Medicare Advantage plan for up to 12 months. If you are not satisfied during this trial period, you can return to the Medigap plan without penalty or underwriting.

4. Personal situations change over time. The death of a spouse, changes in income, or other changes in financial considerations, are all factors in your healthcare purchasing decision. In addition, your health situation may have changed during the past 12 months or medical procedures may be anticipated over the next 12 months. These factors should be considered, and different health care needs between spouses should also be considered. Sometimes one spouse has comprehensive coverage through Medigap and Part D, but a spouse with fewer healthcare needs may be overinsured (and paying significant premiums). Medicare Advantage could provide a less costly alternative for a spouse with fewer healthcare needs.

Clearly, Medicare is an incredibly personal choice. There are many, many good reasons to review coverage during Medicare annual enrollment. Health insurance carriers’ are continuously altering their offerings, prices and provisions, such as prescription drug formularies. That means smarter choices can add up over the long run.

Good News: Medicare Enrollment Approaches

The good news is that Medicare annual enrollment—Oct. 15 to Dec. 7—is the prime time to take a closer look at the plans available to you. It’s also important to realize there is help available for making these comparisons and choices.

Online services such as Allsup's Medicare Advisor program are available for a fee. You can also try OneExchange's Online Medicare Plan Selection tool, or contact a local health insurance broker to help you sort through your options. Careful healthcare selections can provide great value for the money for Medicare beneficiaries.

With a mindful approach to this Medicare season, many Medicare beneficiaries could see important benefits and cost savings by taking action and reviewing their Medicare options.

This article comes to us courtesy of Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, veterans disability appeal, exchange plan and Medicare services, including the Allsup Medicare Advisor®, for individuals, employers and insurance carriers