If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, or you are planning on enrolling in one during this year’s Annual Election Period, there are a few things you should keep in mind as you search, compare, and choose health care coverage for 2012. You have already realized that the Annual Election Period began earlier this year than ever before. From October 15 through December 7, Medicare beneficiaries have the opportunity to make any changes to their health care coverage. This may be disconcerting to those individuals who, in past years, have waited until the very end of the year to make a Medicare health care coverage decision. Just make sure you mark your calendar and make any changes to your coverage before it is too late.
As you look at your Medicare Advantage choices, you will want to keep your own preferences in mind as you explore your options. You may want to review the differences between the provider networks, costs, and benefits of HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) or PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) plans. You should evaluate your lifestyle and needs in relation to those plans available in your area, and be honest with yourself. If you prefer to visit specific doctors, specialists, or hospitals, you may want to check the network of any plan you are considering.
Benefits and costs will differ within any given area, but the best way to narrow your choices is to focus on your individual, personal priorities. Medicare Advantage plans will offer at least the same level of coverage that Original Medicare does, but many MA plans offer a variety of additional benefits. For instance, you can choose an MA plan with or without prescription drug coverage. This is an essential difference between plans – if prescription drug coverage is important to you, you will want to make certain that any plan you consider includes this benefit. Some plans will provide vision, dental, or hearing services, while others may include wellness and fitness programs.
Health care coverage costs can change in a variety of ways. Many beneficiaries are naturally concerned about increases in premiums or deductibles, but costs can rise in other ways as well. For instance, if you have an MA-PD (or Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage), prescription drugs may be moved to a different tier within a plan’s formulary, which could cost you more. Take the time to research the details of any plan you are considering.
Any changes you make to your health care coverage during the AEP will be effective January 1.