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Too Few Seniors Review Medicare Plan Options Annually

·3 min read

More than half of seniors fail to take advantage of one of the most significant benefits available to Medicare beneficiaries.

Each year millions of Americans with Medicare have the opportunity to review their current coverage and consider switching to reduce costs or get better coverage. An analysis of recent studies finds that few take advantage of the opportunity.

Switching Medicare plans is available to those with Original Medicare. Around 37 million Americans have Medicare coverage that works on a fee-for-service basis. Individuals can go to any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare and the government program will pay its share of the bill for any Medicare-covered service.

A yearly review is also an option for the 26.5 million individuals enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. The 46 million with a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) can benefit from an annual look to see if a better option is available.

Potential savings can be significant. A recent study found that those with a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan could save an average of $486 per year by switching to a different plan. Possible savings were as much as double for those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan.

Regrettably, more than half (57%) of all eligible Medicare beneficiaries do not review or compare options according to a review of information by the American Association for Medicare Supplement Insurance, (AAMSI). The percentage increases as individuals age. Two-thirds (66%) of those aged 85 and older say they never review their coverage.

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) that runs from October 15 to December 7 provides the single best opportunity to review current Medicare Advantage and Medicare PDP plan benefits and costs. Increasingly industry experts are recommending that individuals start the review process during the less-busy months leading up to AEP.

Increased competition among Medicare insurance companies and healthcare providers make comparing increasingly beneficial. Comparing available options can be complex. In many places there are as many as 30 Medicare Advantage (MA) plans available and up to 40 different prescription drug plans. For those considering Medicare Supplement (Medigap) options, you may find 20 or more different insurance companies competing for your business.

Most seniors on Medicare report it's easy to understand the program. However, a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 37% of Medicare beneficiaries said it was difficult or very difficult to understand the program.

Finding information need not be complex. The official Medicare website can be a good place to start. However, just under half (44%) of seniors said they have never visited the website. Many who have accessed the information indicate that the volume of information can be confusing and some parts unclear.

Finding Medicare Dollars and Sense Answers

While Medicare is a federal program, available options are local. A plan available in one Zip Code may not be available in a neighboring area. Or, costs may be different. Plan benefits and meaningful options such as free gym memberships are continually being added as a way to attract more consumers.

Creating a simple written checklist comparing benefits and associated costs is a good way to start. If you currently have Medicare coverage, write down the things you like and those you dislike.

Online resources can be a good place to begin your review. So can many of the entities advertising on television. However, to get the best information for your particular area, consider finding and working with a local Medicare insurance agent. Ask whether they offer both Medicare Advantage and Medigap options. And, if they are willing to help you compare your drug plan options.

An online directory lists Medicare agents listed by Zip Code. Access it at www.medicaresupp.org and connect with one or two agents to see who can help you review your current options.

Taking an hour to review can yield better coverage, improved satisfaction and, of course, savings. It seems a more than worthwhile investment of time.

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