5 Medicare Mistakes That Could Cost You
By Dr. Matthew Lewis, Senior Medical Director of Primary Care with New West Physicians, part of Optum ~
For those already on Medicare or anyone who is about to be eligible, one of the best times to reevaluate your plan or sign up for one is during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), October 15 – December 7. It is during this time that Medicare plan beneficiaries can sign up for benefits, reevaluate coverage, make changes to existing coverage, or adjust policies for Original Medicare, supplemental drug coverage, or Medicare Advantage.
CALLOUT BOX: Not sure what plan fits your needs? Call 303-802-1784 to talk to a Medicare expert.*
New West Physicians is now accepting Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and Aetna plans in 2023.
Medicare beneficiaries include persons ages 65+, under 65 and receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for a certain amount of time, kidney dialysis or kidney transplant patients, or younger persons with disabilities.
Those who have participated in open enrollment previously know there are a lot of choices when it comes to Medicare. While the most important is taking charge of your Medicare decisions in the first place, it’s also a good idea to ensure your choices aren’t costing you unnecessary out-of-pocket expenses.
Here are five common mistakes that you don’t want to make during this time – and the reasons why.
- Don’t allow automatic plan renewal to make your choice for you.
Your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan renews every year on January 1, unless you decide to change it. Automatic renewal may make your life easy, but it might not be the best way to make your Medicare decisions. This is especially true if your health care needs have changed in the last year, if you are taking more medications, if you wished you’d had more benefits, (such as dental or hearing), or if your finances have changed. Plans also may change what they cover from year to year, including what you will pay in deductible, premium, copay or coinsurance amounts.
2. Don’t ignore your plan’s Annual Notice of Change (ANOC).
Typically delivered to mailboxes by September 30, ANOC letters ensure that plan members have up-to-date plan information before AEP begins. This document explains any changes in your plan benefits and costs for the upcoming year. The changes may affect your health care and your budget, so it’s important to know what to look for in the ANOC, as it can help you decide early whether to keep your current plan or alert you to look for a new one during AEP.
3. Don’t base your plan choice on the premium alone.
It is easy to focus only on premiums when looking at Medicare costs, but it’s a good idea to look at the big picture, too.
A plan could have a low monthly premium, then charge a medical or prescription drug deductible or have higher copayments. You might prefer this if you rarely go to the doctor and don’t take many medications, but a plan like this could be expensive if you use health care services often, even with the low premium.
It’s important to think, too, about all the out-of-pocket costs as well as your health care needs when choosing a plan. For example, many Medicare Advantage plans offer routine vision, hearing, and dental coverage, and certain plans also provide fitness membership benefits at no additional cost.
4. Don’t pick a plan because your spouse or friend has it.
You might count on a friend’s word when deciding what new restaurant to try, but a Medicare plan is a personal choice. What works for one person may not fit with the needs of another. You will probably have several plans to choose from, so it’s a good idea to look at all your options, keeping your health care needs and budget at the forefront of your mind. The Medicare.gov website suggests considering seven things when choosing a plan that’s just right for you: cost, coverage/benefits, any other coverage you hold, prescription drugs, doctor and hospital choice, quality of care and travel coverage.
5. Don’t assume that you don’t qualify for help with Medicare costs.
Several programs offer financial assistance with Medicare premiums and other costs. In some cases, Medicare Savings Programs may pay Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments if you meet certain conditions.
There are four kinds of Medicare Savings Programs: Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB); Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB); Qualifying Individual (QI); and Qualified Disabled & Working Individuals (QDWI). If you qualify for a QMB, SLMB, or QI program, you automatically qualify to get extra help paying for Medicare drug coverage. You may want to look into them, even if you think you might not be eligible.
Remember, the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period ends December 7. Now’s the time to take charge of your health. A New West Physicians doctor and Medicare Advantage plan can help you enjoy lower costs, better health and more coverage.
Talk to a Medicare expert* at 303-802-1784 or visit optum.com/2023AEP to learn more.
New West Physicians, part of Optum, is a proud provider of the Optum Care Network – Colorado giving you access to more than 140 providers across 26 clinics and all major hospitals throughout the Denver metro area as well as virtual visits. We’re here for you, helping you feel your healthiest for nearly 30 years.
*A licensed insurance agent. New West Physicians patient advocates connect Medicare beneficiaries with resources including licensed insurance agents that sell Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug plans.
New West Physicians does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in its health programs and activities. ATTENTION: If you do not speak English, language assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Please call 303.763.4900 Ext. 61500. ATENCIÓN: Si habla español (Spanish), hay servicios de asistencia de idiomas, sin cargo, a su disposición. Llame al 303.763.4900 Ext. 61500.
It was interesting to me when you mentioned that October 15th to December 7th is the best time to sign up or reevaluate Medicare plans. I would think that it would be a good idea to find an insurance agency to work with before this enrollment period begins. You wouldn’t want to spend half of the enrollment period trying to find someone to work with.