While it’s exciting to think ahead to retirement after decades of hard work, the countless financial decisions you need to make may seem daunting. One of the most important financial planning decisions you can make relates to how you use your retirement benefits, such as Medicare, a federal insurance program designed for people age 65 and older. Not only is healthcare one of the top five expenses in retirement, but healthcare spending only increases with age. (1)
The problem with Medicare is that it often seems complicated and confusing. Since there are multiple plans and various enrollment periods, how do you make sense of all the information? Here’s a breakdown of Medicare’s open enrollment period and the actions you can take.
When Is Medicare Open Enrollment?
The Medicare open enrollment period happens at the same time every year due to the changes enacted in 2011, starting on October 15th and ending December 7th. For coverage in 2019, open enrollment will run from October 15, 2018, to December 7, 2018. Once December 8th arrives, the enrollment period closes until the following October. During this time, current Medicare users can switch coverage or add or drop parts of their plan.
Open enrollment is not for those who have never signed up for Medicare, unless the open enrollment period also falls during your initial enrollment time, which begins three months before you turn 65 and ends three months after the month you turn 65. But if you only signed up for Medicare Parts A and B during your initial enrollment, open enrollment gives you the opportunity to make changes to your coverage.
What Can I Do During Open Enrollment?
Here is an overview of the changes you can make to your Medicare plan during open enrollment:
- If you have Parts A and B, you can switch to Medicare Part C (or Medicare Advantage), which is often contracted by outside companies that have an agreement with Medicare. This service includes the coverage of both Plan A and Plan B (Original Medicare), as well as additional services, like prescription drug coverage and private fee-for-service plans.
- If you have Medicare Part C, you can switch back to Original Medicare (Parts A and B).
- You can reevaluate your Part C plan and switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
- If you already have Parts A and B, you can join or drop a Part D prescription drug plan. This part of Medicare adds the prescription drug coverage for Original Medicare, private fee-for-service plans, and some Medicare cost plans.
- You can switch your Part D prescription drug plan to a different Part D plan.
What Will Medicare Cost?
The amount you will pay for Medicare insurance depends on a variety of factors. While many people choose Plan A, the premium for Plan B is paid automatically and costs about $134 monthly on average. The cost may vary depending on your income, whether or not you’re still working, and when you originally enrolled. Review the factors to get the best coverage.
As an example to demonstrate the differences in cost, if you worked for more than ten years, your monthly cost for the Plan A premium is $0 because you paid it while you worked. But the costs get higher if you worked for fewer than ten years, climbing to $422 a month.
The Plan B premium also offers coinsurance after you’ve paid your deductible. This means that for some services, you’ll pay only 20% of the total cost.
How Can I Improve My Medicare Coverage?
Plan C and Plan D are known as the options with the most coverage. Financially speaking, they are the most comprehensive plans. If you have either the basic Plan A or Plan B, you can improve your coverage using Medigap. This will help you pay for some of the services that are not covered by the higher coverage plans. Part C is also a prudent choice because it provides for services like dental and hearing health, which are not covered by the basic insurance plans.
As you can see, Medicare is complicated and ever-evolving, so don’t try to handle the intricacies alone. At Strong Tower Associates, we focus on helping you get ready for every aspect of retirement, including healthcare. We can help you predict your potential needs and help ensure you are adequately covered for any services you need. If you need help evaluating your Medicare options, reviewing your insurance coverage, or just want to ask a couple of questions, we are here to help. Request a meeting online and download your free Retirement Readiness ebook today!
Ash Toumayants is a financial advisor and the founder of Strong Tower Associates. For over a decade, he has helped hardworking people across Central Pennsylvania prepare for retirement. Fueled by a passion for helping people see through the veil of confusion that shrouds the financial world, his goal is to educate his clients so they can make more sound choices regarding their financial future. A Penn State graduate, he currently lives in State College with his lovely wife, Noelle, and their two adorable children. Learn more by connecting with Ash on LinkedIn or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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