| Wed, Sep 28, 2011 @ 09:00 AM

How to Compare Medicare Plans

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

It’s a good idea to prepare early for the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period by researching and comparing Medicare plans that might work for you. This year, the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) starts and ends four weeks earlier from October 15 through December 7. This is the time when you can change your Medicare plan choices, if needed, to ensure that you have the coverage you need for the coming year. It’s a good idea to prepare for AEP early by researching and comparing different Medicare plans that might work for you.

Review Your Current Coverage

Before you start looking at your plan choices, you may want to take a good look at your current coverage to ensure that you understand the benefits it provides and what your costs are. Ask yourself the following questions:

• Do I have Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage? Most Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) include prescription drug coverage. With Original Medicare (Parts A and B), you need to purchase a separate prescription drug plan from a private insurance company.

• Do I have vision, dental, hearing and wellness care? These are not included in Original Medicare, but many Medicare Advantage plans offer these additional benefits.

• Does my plan charge a monthly premium? With Original Medicare, you pay a premium for Part B. With Medicare Advantage plans you continue to pay your Part B premium to Medicare. Some Medicare Advantage plans charge an additional premium, and some don’t.

• What are my deductibles, copays and coinsurances? With Original Medicare, costs (and coverage) are the same for everyone, no matter where you live. Medicare Advantage plans are offered regionally by private insurance companies, so costs, as well as coverage, vary from company to company and plan to plan.

Compare Your Plan Choices

When you have the information you need, you can compare your current plan to other plan choices. Medicare.gov provides a tool, Medicare Plan Finder, which allows you to search for plans in your area and to compare them side by side. Here’s how it works:

1. You are asked to answer several questions about your current coverage, your prescription medications and what pharmacies you’d like to use.

2. After you enter your answers, the tool provides you with a summary of results. You can narrow your results using filters that will show plans with certain features, for example, nationwide coverage or a premium range that you define.

3. You can now choose to look at all of the plans together, including Original Medicare, or you can view the results by plan type. You can choose to view Medicare Advantage plans with or without Part D prescription drug coverage, or you can see just standalone prescription drug plans.

4. Once you make your selection, you’ll see a final list of plans. For each plan, you will see estimated annual costs, monthly premium amounts, deductibles, copays and coinsurance; benefits; drug coverage and restrictions; estimated annual health and drug costs and an overall plan rating.

5. After comparing your own plan to the plans listed in the plan finder, you can , if you wish, click the “Enroll” button to begin the enrollment process with a plan you select.

Get Help If You Need It

If you need help understanding your plan choices, contact your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIP is a state-based program that offers local one-on-one counseling to Medicare beneficiaries on a wide range of Medicare, Medicaid and Medigap matters. You can get help understanding the benefits offered under different plans and get information about public benefit programs for those with limited income and assets, among many other services. SHIP also supports efforts to inform Medicare beneficiaries about fraud and abuse.

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. You can also contact UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Made Clear to learn more at 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.

Resources:

Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods – Medicare.gov

Medicare and You – Medicare.gov

What is a Medicare Advantage Plan? – Medicare.gov

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