Contributed by: Kali Hassinger, CFP®
As the weather changes and fall begins, there seems to be a general shift from the summer mindset to a more focused fall mentality. Maybe it’s because, even well into adulthood, we’re accustomed to that “back-to-school” switch. If you are currently enrolled in Medicare (not quite school, but significant nonetheless!), fall will continue to mark an important time of year because the Medicare open enrollment period begins on October 15th and lasts until December 7th. This is the time when Medicare participants can update their health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year.
If you participate in a Medicare health and/or prescription plan, it’s important to be sure that your coverage will continue to meet your needs in the year to come. Plans will send out notification materials if coverage is changing, but, even if it isn’t, it may be worth comparing your current coverage to other options. If you are thinking of updating your coverage, there are several items that you should consider.
Other coverage options:
If you are currently covered by or eligible for coverage through another provider, such as your former employer, you’ll want to understand how this plan works with Medicare. Most retiree plans are designed to coincide with Medicare for those 65 and older, but you’ll want to be sure that the premiums and plan benefits are more advantageous than the open market Medicare options.
This may seem like a given, but there are several cost factors to take into consideration. Premiums, deductibles, and other costs can add up throughout the year, so it’s important to have a grasp of the plan’s monthly AND annual expenses.
Are the doctors and pharmacies who participate in this plan convenient for you? If you have a current doctor or pharmacy that you want to continue using, be sure that they are in network.
Quality of Coverage:
Perhaps another seemingly obvious but important consideration, quality of coverage means how well does the plan actually cover the services you need. Some plans require referrals and limit (or won’t provide) coverage if you go out of network. If you have ongoing prescriptions, make sure the drugs are covered and that you understand any rules that may affect your prescription in the future.
It’s important to understand and compare your Medicare options, but it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the process. Raymond James partners with a group called Health Plan One to help clients strike the right balance between appropriate coverage and healthcare costs. Our office has the opportunity to host a webinar with HPOne on October 23rd at 1:00 PM, and you can register for the webinar by clicking here.
Kali Hassinger, CFP® is an Associate Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®