NATION: You May Have Additional Time to Choose a Medicare Plan
By Thomas O’Conner
CEO, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement in South Carolina
After the devastation of Hurricane Irma and Tropical Storm Nate, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has extended a special election period (SEP) to Medicare beneficiaries who did not choose a plan during open enrollment for those affected by the hurricane, including more than 1 million people statewide. The SEP runs through Dec. 31, which means you may have more time to choose a Medicare plan for 2018.
Determining the right Medicare plan may feel especially overwhelming with the current challenges facing our communities, so here are four tips to help make the process easier.
1. Review Your Choices
When it comes to selecting a Medicare plan, one size does not fit all. You have options, so explore them so you can find the coverage that works best for you. Get your questions answered.
Check if your current coverage is still meeting your needs, and see if your benefits will change next year. Also, make sure your medications are included in the plan. Even if you don’t expect to change plans, it’s important to ensure your drugs will still be covered next year.
2. Consider Your Care
In addition to providing access to care providers, you should look for a plan that offers the benefits that are important to you.
Confirm your preferred doctors and hospitals are available through the plan you’re considering.
Also, don’t forget about dental, vision and other additional benefits. Many people are surprised to find that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs and most dental, vision and hearing services. But many Medicare Advantage plans do.
3. Look at a Plan’s Overall Costs
The cost of a plan’s monthly premium is important, but you also need to take other costs into account. For some people plans with a higher premium may actually be the most cost-effective choice in the long-run, especially if the plan includes more benefits and lower out-of-pocket costs.
4. Look for Value
Don’t assume you have to pay a lot for good benefits. Medicare Advantage plans can have low or $0 monthly premiums and rich benefits.
Plans can offer the protection of out-of-pocket maximums, $0 copays on tier 1 and 2 prescription drugs, including mail order, and additional benefits like dental, access to 24/7 nurse phone lines and hearing aid discounts. For plans with monthly premiums, it’s important to note that people who qualify for extra help based on their income could get the cost of those premiums covered.
Remember: You May Have Until Dec. 31 to Choose a Plan, For additional resources to help navigate Medicare enrollment, visit UHCOpenEnrollment.com.