By Greg Wright
CEO, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement in Southern California
For the more than six million people eligible for Medicare in California, including more than 1.4 million who are Medicare eligible in Los Angeles County, determining the right plan this open enrollment period can be a daunting task. If you feel overwhelmed sorting through all the options, you are not alone. UnitedHealthcare conducted a survey this year to assess people’s understanding of Medicare and found that almost 40 percent of beneficiaries found the program confusing.
By following these five tips, you can make the process of shopping for Medicare coverage easier.
- Know the Dates
For most people, Medicare Open Enrollment is your one opportunity to make changes to your Medicare coverage each year. It runs from now to Dec. 7. Changes made during open enrollment take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
- Review Your Choices
When it comes to selecting a Medicare plan, one size does not fit all. You have options. Take the time to explore them so you can find the coverage that works best for you. Start early and 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.
- 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.
- 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. There are a number of plans that offer $0 premiums. However, 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.
- Look for Value
Don’t assume you have to pay a lot for good benefits. In Southern California for example, there are plans available with low or $0 monthly premiums and rich benefits.
Plans can offer the protection of low out-of-pocket maximums, $0 copays on tier 1 and 2 prescription drugs, including mail order, credits for over-the-counter items, and additional benefits like gym memberships, comprehensive dental, chiropractic and acupuncture coverage. 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: Medicare Open Enrollment Ends Dec. 7
For additional resources to help navigate open enrollment, visit UHCOpenEnrollment.com.