My mother asked me to help her navigate the Medicare Open Enrollment period this year, which I am happy to do. The problem is I don’t know much about Medicare. I’m not yet eligible for the benefit, so I’m not sure where to start.
Can you offer any suggestions on what we should know and look for to ensure we make good choices?
Laurie in Brighton, MI
Overview of Medicare Open Enrollment
While Medicare provides recipients with many benefits, it can be tough to navigate at first! Once you’ve been through open enrollment a few times, it becomes easier.
The first thing to know is Medicare Open Enrollment takes place from October 15th to December 7th every year. During this time, Medicare recipients can make changes to their existing plan. While you aren’t required to make any changes, it’s important to check that your mom’s preferred doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies will continue to participate in Medicare for 2022.
Your mother should have received two important documents in the mail: “Evidence of Coverage” (EOC) and “Annual Notice of Changes” (ANOC). These list any scheduled changes to your mother’s plan for the upcoming year. But these documents probably aren’t the only ones filling your mother’s mailbox.
Because more seniors are enrolling in Medicare Advantage plans, Advantage providers have significantly increased their marketing efforts. So, your mother is likely receiving packets of literature from these providers, too. Review those packets of information to explore other options for 2022. Make sure to read more about Medicare Advantage plans on the official Medicare website if you and your mom are considering enrolling her in one.
Tips for Medicare Open Enrollment
To make the most of Medicare Open Enrollment this fall, you should:
- Start your review early: For most seniors, this is the one time of year they can make changes. Don’t wait until late November to get started only to discover that you have questions or concerns you need answered before your mom can re-enroll.
- Utilize the four C’s: The National Council on Aging (NCOA) encourages Medicare recipients to keep the four C’s in mind as they are reviewing options. They are cost, coverage, convenience, and choice. Compare last year’s medical bills, provider locations, and any anticipated medications or services your mom might need in 2022 with the four C’s.
- Review drug coverage: If your mother doesn’t take many prescription medications, it’s easy to overlook how expensive they can be. Should your mother have a change in health or require surgery, medication costs can quickly add up. That’s why it’s important to take time to explore your options. Also investigate Medicare Advantage plans if your current plan doesn’t cover prescriptions or has a high co-pay. Other plans may offer better coverage.
If you find this process confusing, you aren’t alone. The good news is Medicare has tools and team members that can help. The Medicare Finder Tool allows Medicare eligible seniors to search by zip code to find plans in their area. You can also review each plan’s quality score or star rating.
I hope this information helps, Laurie! Good luck finding your way through Medicare Open Enrollment.
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