In most cases, your current Medicare coverage will renew automatically each year unless you make changes to your coverage, whether you have Original Medicare (Parts A and B), a plan (Part C) or Part D prescription drug coverage. This is a worry-free way to make sure you have health care coverage year after year. But it still might be a good idea to research other options just to make sure you’ll have the coverage you need for 2012.
Have Your Health Care or Financial Needs Changed?
Before choosing to stay with your current plan, it might be helpful to review your health care needs over the past year. Have you gone to the doctor more than usual or started taking more medications? Have you been diagnosed with a chronic disease or had frequent visits to the hospital? If you’re looking for a more coordinated care experience or additional benefits Original Medicare might not provide, a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan might be a good option. These plans bundle your coverage for hospital stays with coverage for doctor visits, preventive care, and things like vision and hearing exams. Some plans may also include prescription drug coverage.
It’s also important to balance your health care needs with your budget. If you have Original Medicare, you may have noticed there are some expenses it doesn’t cover. One alternative is a Medicare Advantage plan, but there are other options, too. Are you mostly satisfied with Original Medicare, but could use help with the expenses Original Medicare doesn’t cover? Many people who choose Original Medicare add the extra coverage of Medicare Supplement Insurance to fill in these gaps.
Has Your Current Plan Made Changes For the New Plan Year?
If you are a member of a Medicare Advantage or Part D Prescription Drug plan, or have Medicare Supplement Insurance, you should receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) each year. Some changes might affect whether or not you wish to renew your current plan, so be sure to review these changes carefully. Examples of common changes include:
- Cost Sharing – Plans can increase their premiums and other costs from year to year. Can you still afford your current plan, or would it be helpful to research lower-cost options?
- Coverage Area – Will your current plan still be offered in your area next year?
- Drug Coverage – Sometimes the drug coverage offered by your Medicare Advantage or Part D Prescription Drug plan will change from year to year. Your ANOC will tell you, for example, if a formulary medication you are currently taking is either not on the upcoming year’s formulary or if a particular drug’s cost sharing or coverage will be limited in the upcoming year.
Ready for Next Year?
The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is from October 15 – December 7 this year. During this time, you can join, switch or drop your Medicare coverage. Once the AEP has closed, you can’t make changes to your Medicare coverage until next year (except in special circumstances). If your needs have changed and you don’t want to renew your current coverage, you still have time to take advantage of this year’s AEP. One helpful way to compare plans available in your area is the Medicare.gov plan finder tool. Simply enter your ZIP code to get started. Based on the information you provide, you will see a list of plans available in your area. You can compare plans against each other or against your existing plan. Then you can be confident in your health care choices for the coming year, whether that means automatically renewing your existing coverage or switching to a plan that will better meet your needs.
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.
Medicare.gov Plan Finder Tool
CMS’ Medicare & You 2011 – Medicare.gov
Y0066_111108_124008 File & Use 11132011