AnnouncementsLong Term PlanningIt’s That Time of Year – Medicare Open Enrollment

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Whether you are new to Medicare or have received benefits before, it is important to understand and take advantage of the 2018 Open Enrollment period.

Open enrollment started on October 15, 2017 through December 7, 2017. This is the time of year when you can enroll, re-enroll or change plans for 2018. During this time, you can make changes to various aspects of your Medicare coverage:

  • Switch your coverage from “Original Medicare” to a Medicare Advantage program, or vice versa.
    • Original Medicare is the fee-for-service program in which the government pays directly for the health care costs you incur. You can see any doctor throughout the country, as long as the doctor accepts Medicare. There are two major parts to the program:
      • Part A – which is called “hospital insurance” because it provides broad coverage for inpatient expenses and skilled nursing facilities, hospice care and home health services (however, there are limitations associated with each).
      • Part B – which is called “medical insurance” because it provides coverage for medically necessary services such as physicians, nursing fees, x-rays, diagnostic testing, blood infusions, chemotherapy and so on.
      • A great resource to understand what is and what is not covered under your Part A and Part B “original Medicare” benefit can be found at www.medicare.gov/what-medicare-covers/index.html.
    • Medicare Advantage program – is also referred to as Part C. Medicare Advantage plans cover everything that Original Medicare covers, but, in many cases, they also cover urgent and emergency care services, vision, hearing and health and wellness programs.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another. If you currently utilize a Medicare Advantage Plan, this is the time of year to compare your current plan with the other offerings in your area. Learn more about Medicare Advantage Plans.
  • If you have not enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan, you can do so now. Medicare Part D is the prescription plan. Remember, however, that failure to enroll when you were first eligible may result in a penalty. Learn more about Medicare Part D.

There are also some changes coming to the Medicare system for 2018:

  • Starting in April 2018, Medicare beneficiaries will be receiving new ID cards that no longer contain your Social Security number. Identify theft and fraud are huge issues and these changes are being implemented to help combat the potential that your Medicare coverage card can be used inappropriately.
  • Medicare Part B premiums will fluctuate. However, notification about these changes have not yet been issued.

If you are already enrolled in Original Medicare, a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Part D and do not want to make any changes to your 2018 benefits, then you do not have to do anything during this open enrollment period. However, use this time to review your plan to be sure that it still meets your needs and that you understand any changes in the premium cost. You also want to double check that your plan is still available for your service area. If you don’t make changes during the Medicare Open Enrollment period, you may find yourself locked in to your benefits for the next year. Except under certain circumstances, you are barred from making changes to your plan except during the annual Medicare Open Enrollment period.

Taking to time to review your current plan and determining what is best to meet your needs for 2018 is important. If you need assistance, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, through the executive Office of Elder Affairs, offers counseling through the SHINE program. SHIE (Serving the Health Information Needs of Elders) is a state health insurance assistance program that provides free health insurance information to Massachusetts residences. To schedule an appointment with a SHINE counselor call 1-800-AGE INFO (1-800-243-4636) and press #3.

Generations Law Group helps many families with long term care planning including Medicare and Medicaid decisions. Contact us today to learn what you can do to protect your family.

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