| Tue, Nov 07, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

Do I Have to Renew My Medicare Plan during Open Enrollment?

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

senior-couple-by-the-beachUnless you take action to change it during Medicare Open Enrollment (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7), your current Medicare coverage will renew for the following year. But are you sure you want it to?

Automatic renewal helps ensure that you will have continuing coverage. It works the same whether you have Original Medicare (Parts A and B), a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) or a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D). You simply do nothing and your current coverage choices stay in place for another year.

But sticking with the status quo may not be in your best interest, even if you’ve been happy with your coverage up to now. Why? You won’t know unless you ask some questions.

Have Your Health Care Needs Changed?

Things change in life, and some changes may affect the kind or amount of health care you need. For example:

  • A new diagnosis might mean more doctor visits or new medications
  • An advancing illness may increase the number or length of hospital stays or require home care
  • Additional medications may be needed to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis or heart disease
  • Maybe you have a planned surgery coming up.

Examples like these can help get you thinking, but what’s important is to look carefully at your health care needs – past, present and, as much as possible, future. Only then can you choose the type of coverage and specific plans that may best meet your personal needs. This online guide walks you through some important health care questions and gives tips on how to use your answers in your decision-making.

Once you have a good handle on your health care needs, it’s time to look at your current coverage.

Has Your Current Plan Made Changes for Next Year?

Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans may change costs and coverage from year to year. So your plan that’s set to renew for next year may not be the same as the plan you signed up for last year—or many years ago.

Your plan will send you an Annual Notice of Change document in the mail, usually in September. This document explains plan coverage and cost changes that will go into effect on January 1. Take time to look it over and think about the impact plan changes may have on your health care or costs. This can help you decide whether you want to renew your current plan or look for different coverage.

Plans may make changes in the following areas.

  • Cost sharing. Will your copays, coinsurance or deductible change? What about the monthly plan premium? Will your expected out-of-pocket spending fit with your budget? It’s helpful to estimate your spending for the year to understand the full impact of cost changes. Remember to look at all the costs, not just the premium.
  • Provider network. Are your doctors in the plan’s provider network? What about hospitals or specialists? Are you willing to switch to other providers or pay more to see your preferred providers if they’re not in the plan network?
  • Drug list. Are the drugs you take on the list of covered drugs (formulary)? Have any been assigned to a different formulary tier? How will changes affect your out-of-pocket costs?
  • Pharmacy network. Can you continue to use the pharmacies you prefer? Are they on the plan’s pharmacy network list? Are there preferred pharmacies where you could save money? Can you use them?

You can use this plan review checklist to help decide how well your current coverage has been working for you. It could help you identify some things to look for in a new plan if you decide make a change.

Original Medicare may also have different coverage and costs from the last time you looked, so it’s a good idea to review the current Medicare & You handbook.

Are You Ready for Next Year?

Automatic renewal is a great way to go if you feel confident that the coverage you already have will fit your needs going forward. It’s easy and convenient – but once open enrollment is over on December 7, your chance to change your Medicare coverage for next year is over, too, unless you move or otherwise qualify for a special exception.

Medicare’s Plan Finder is a good tool for comparing your current plan with others available where you live. Simply enter your zip code to get started.

Conclusion

You get to choose the Medicare coverage that you think best fits your needs each year during Medicare Open Enrollment (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7). You may choose to let your current coverage renew. Or you may choose something different. The important thing is to choose.

Related Content

3 Good Reasons to Shop for a New Medicare Plan

5 Medicare Mistakes that Could Cost You

 

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or 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.

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