The number of people who have Medicare health insurance has risen over the past 3 years from around 55.5 million people to 58.5 million people.
The population of seniors in America is expected to skyrocket in the next 30 years, meaning that the number of Americans on Medicare will continue its upward trend.
This influx of new Medicare recipients in the marketplace has not made understanding the marketplace easier for new and existing recipients.
Whether you are looking into your Medicare options or trying to help a loved one, understanding Medicare is possible.
Read more for tips about finding the best Medicare plan for your unique healthcare needs
Figure Out Your Healthcare Needs
Before delving into Medicare research, understanding your healthcare needs for the upcoming year is vital.
Healthcare information that you should know when evaluating plans includes the following:
- Hospital visits from the previous year
- Any specialists you’re currently seeing
- The generic names and dosages of your medications
Knowing this information will make understanding Medicare personal, allowing you to decide where you need more coverage and where you may be able to save money.
Understand your Medicare Options
Once you feel comfortable with your specific healthcare needs, it is important to understand how Medicare works.
Medicare options have exploded with the introduction of private insurance plans on the marketplace and supplemental options. Navigating these plans is almost impossible without understanding the structure of Medicare.
Your two basic Medicare options are traditional, or Parts A & B or Medicare Advantage. Here is some basic information on Medicare Parts A through D:
- Part A– Medicare Part A is based on Social Security, and is free for those who either have 10 years of work experience or whose spouse has 10 years. This part of Medicare covers things like hospital bills, hospice care, and limited home health care.
- Part B– Part A and Part B work together to cover both hospital visits as well as preventive care. Part B specifically covers doctor’s visits, outpatient care, and additionally to Part A some home health care options. The average cost of Medicare Part B is based on yearly income with those making less than $85,000 paying the least and those making $214,000 or higher paying the most.
- Part C– Part C is often referred to as a Medicare Advantage plan. These plans are offered by private insurers that not only are authorized to offer traditional Medicare benefits but also offer additional benefits like dental, vision, and wellness plans. These plans cost an additional premium, the national average predicted for 2018 is $30.
- Part D– Part D covers prescriptions and is often included in a Medicare Advantage plan. The national average cost of Medicare Part 2 is estimated to be $33.50 in 2018.
For those who have Medicare Parts A and B but are not satisfied with their coverage, you may be able to purchase a Medigap plan. This plan is similar to a Medicare Advantage plan, and cannot be purchased by those who have Medicare Part C.
Re-evaluate yearly, even if you’re satisfied
Now that we have Medicare explained, it is necessary also to understand that Medicare plans and benefits change annually.
Every year around September you will receive a notice of policy changes in the mail. This document is your guide to how your policy may change in the upcoming year.
You should review this guide with a list of your prescriptions to determine if any upcoming changes will cost you.
Lastly, healthcare needs change year to year which influences health insurance decisions.
Review plan ratings
There are rating systems for restaurants, movies, businesses, pretty much anything. Medicare is no different.
Comparing plans is a time-consuming process, but Medicare.gov offers a quick at-a-glance rating system for consumers. The scale is from one star to five stars, which five stars being the highest.
This tool is especially helpful when comparing a handful of plans. You can find your current plan on the website as well to compare.
Get expert advice
No matter how much research you do, it’s always a good idea to take advantage of expert resources.
Knowing where to find reliable, confidential help on a topic as sensitive as Medicare can be difficult for many. Thankfully, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services offers one-stop shopping for resources.
One of the most important resources is the 24-hour hotline for Medicare and Medicaid. Staffed by experts in understanding Medicare and explaining coverage in a way that makes sense, calling toll free to 1-800-633-4227 is a great way of sorting through your options.
When looking at Medigap coverage, be sure to check out medigap.com reviews.
Save the date
A common mistake that people make when evaluating Medicare is not knowing when the open enrollment period is, or what it is. Open enrollment refers to the time when people can enroll in Medicare, change plans, or change providers.
Open enrollment occurs every year from October 15th to December 7th. Because this is a relatively short window, the bulk of Medicare research should be done in advance of the open enrollment period.
You are also eligible for open enrollment from three months before turning 65 through three months after.
Most people have to enroll in some kind of Medicare Advantage or Medigap program to avoid astronomical out of pocket costs, which can only be done during the open enrollment period.
The bottom line
Understanding Medicare enables you to take control of your healthcare spending. Only you know what is right for you, but these tips should help get you started. Take the time to review your health needs and pick a plan that’s best for you.
Go here for more information about health and wellness at any age.