You have a lot of choices when it comes to Medicare. And the most important might be choosing to take charge of your Medicare decisions in the first place.
Medicare Annual Enrollment, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, is your chance to take charge. Here are five common mistakes that you don't want to make during this time.
1. Allowing automatic plan renewal to make your choice for you
Your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan renews every year on Jan. 1, unless you decide to change it.
Automatic renewal may be easy, but it might not be the best way to make your Medicare decisions. Plans may change what they cover from year to year, including what you will pay in deductible, premium, copay or coinsurance amounts.
Insurance companies review their plans each year to make sure they're still viable. Shouldn't you do the same?
2. Ignoring your plan's Annual Notice of Changes (ANOC)
Each fall, you receive an Annual Notice of Changes (ANOC) from your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan. (It should have already hit your mailbox.) This document explains any changes in your plan benefits or costs for the upcoming year. The changes may affect your health care and your budget, so take time to learn about what to look for in your ANOC.
3. Basing your plan choice on the premium alone
It's easy to focus only on premiums when looking at Medicare costs. But it's important to look at the big picture, too.
A plan with a $0 or low monthly premium may charge a large medical or prescription drug deductible or have high copayments. You might prefer this if you rarely go to the doctor and don't take many medications. But a plan like this could be expensive if you use health care services often, even with the low premium.
It's important to think about all the out-of-pocket costs as well as your health care needs when choosing a plan. For example, many Medicare Advantage plans offer routine vision, hearing and dental coverage, and certain plans also provide fitness membership benefits at no additional cost.
4. Picking a plan because your spouse or friend has it
You might count on a friend's word when deciding what new restaurant to try, but a Medicare plan is a personal choice. What works for one person may not fit the needs of another.
You may have several plans to choose from, so it's smart to look at all your options, keeping your health care needs and budget in mind. Coverage and costs can vary quite a bit from plan to plan.
5. Assuming you don't qualify for help with Medicare costs
Several programs offer financial assistance with Medicare premiums and other costs. You may want to investigate them, even if you think you might not be eligible. Call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) office to discuss your situation.
Take charge today
Medicare Annual Enrollment exists so that you have a chance to change your Medicare coverage if you decide to. Take the opportunity to review your current coverage and health needs so you can make an informed decision.
For more helpful information on Medicare Annual Enrollment, visit UHCOpenEnrollment.com.