| Wed, Nov 06, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

Find and Compare Plans: Medicare Open Enrollment Boot Camp

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

medicare plansThe seventh in a series of eight articles to help you make informed Medicare coverage decisions. If you missed our last article on reviewing your prescription drug coverage, you can find it here.

Earlier articles in this series offered tips on assessing your Medicare coverage needs, your budget and your current coverage. You can view these Boot Camp series articles now, if you want help thinking through any of these things.

You may decide that your current coverage still meets your needs for 2014. If that’s the case, you’re done! You don’t have to do anything more during Medicare Open Enrollment. Your coverage will continue automatically in 2014. Be sure you understand any coverage or cost changes your plan may have made for 2014 before making your final decision. You can review these in the Annual Notice of Changes (ANOC) you received from your plan.

If you’re not sure yet whether you want to change your coverage, then you may want to learn about the Medicare plans offered where you live. You may be looking for a Medicare Advantage or a Medicare prescription drug plan, depending on your needs. These plans are offered through private insurance companies. Each plan has a geographic service area where it operates. You must live in a plan’s service area in order to enroll in the plan.

How to Find Medicare Plan Information

You may have many plan choices, depending on where you live. You can use the Plan Finder tool at Medicare.gov to look for plans offered in your area. There is a link to the tool in the resource list at the end of this article. This may be a good first step, since you can get a whole list of plans offered by many companies.

Health insurance company web sites can be good sources of information. Many have online tools that use information you provide to help narrow down the choices to those that may fit your needs. The downside of this approach is that you only see the plans offered by that company. You may have many plan choices from other companies as well. Be sure you look for them.

You may want to start with Medicare’s Plan Finder to identify plans you want to investigate further. Then you can go to the company site for more information, if needed.

It’s important to note that you can enroll in a plan right on the Medicare.gov site. You can also enroll on most company web sites.

How to Compare Medicare Plans

Carefully review the terms of any plan you are considering. Plans may change coverage terms and costs from year to year, so you want to make sure you have the most current information.

The Medicare Plan Finder Worksheet may help you compare the plans you’re interested in side by side. You can compare different Medicare plans of one type to each other, such as one Medicare Advantage plan to another. Or you can compare one plan with a combination of plans. For example, you might compare a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage to Original Medicare plus a Medicare prescription drug plan.

Here are a few questions you will probably want to answer “yes” to for any plan you may want to enroll in:

  • Is your provider in the plan network, if there is one?
  • Can you use your preferred pharmacy, if you have one?
  • Are your drugs on the plan formulary?
  • Are you comfortable with the expected out-of-pocket costs?

It may take some time to understand plan costs. You may want to estimate what your costs would be with each plan or combination of plans you’re considering. Create a scenario or take a situation from your own health care experience and compare what you would pay with each coverage choice. Here are some costs to consider:

  • Monthly plan premiums
  • Annual deductibles
  • Copays/coinsurance
  • Annual out-of-pocket maximum
  • Emergency care fees
  • Annual pharmacy deductible
  • Prescription drug costs

Stay With Us!

Medicare Open Enrollment ends December 7. You have just over one month to make your decisions and change your Medicare coverage choices, if you choose.

Check out our final article in the Medicare Boot Camp series on making decisions about Medicare.  Be prepared to make an informed decision about your Medicare coverage for 2014.

For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear, call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.


Plan Finder: Use this online tool at Medicare.gov to search for plans in your area.

Medicare & You: Learn about Original Medicare coverage and costs in this annual publication.

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