It’s that time again! Prepare for the barrage of B-list celebrities pitching Medicare Advantage plans in TV ads on late-night TV – Medicare re-enrollment runs Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.
It’s the time of the year that current Medicare recipients can switch plans. You can:
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare
- Switch to new/different insurers within either Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage plan you are already enrolled in
- Switch from one Medicare Part D prescription drug plan provider to another.
The Medicare Options
Original Medicare includes Parts A and B and is run by the federal government.
Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called Part C, are run by private insurers contracted by the government. Forty-eight percent of Medicare recipients are now enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, which generally include prescription drug coverage and other benefits not included in Original Medicare, such as hearing, dental and vision benefits.
They may also be less expensive. But they limit your selection of doctors to those who are already in the plan, and that may not include your physician.
Part D is the prescription drug plan in original Medicare and is paid for separately.
Medicare Competition Heats Up
“The major insurance carriers are getting more and more competitive, trying to bring better and better plans to everyone,” says Dave Francis, CEO of Healthpilot, which helps seniors select a Medicare plan. “It’s getting more difficult to discern between which of the multitude of options is best for them.”
“Nine out of 10 people are in the wrong plan given their current health and economic circumstances,”
Francis says people need help selecting a plan. “Nine out of 10 people are in the wrong plan given their current health and economic circumstances,” he says. “It’s important to make sure that whatever plan the customer is selecting, covers them in the best way possible.”
“It’s really important that customers understand who their doctors are, all of the different drugs or medications that they take and what pharmacy they prefer to go to.”
“I would make the argument that every single individual in the market should have some kind of additional insurance beyond Original Medicare, whether that’s a Medicare supplement plan plus a Part D, or a Medicare Advantage plan,” says Francis, “simply because in the event of a catastrophic medical event, you’re only covered by the government for about 80% of your out-of-pocket costs. So, a $200,000 stroke or car accident or something like that can have a devastating financial impact on people.”
What’s new for Medicare in 2023
2023 will be a “year of transition for Medicare.”
Philip Moeller, author of “Get What’s Yours for Medicare” covers news and developments in Medicare in his newsletter. He says 2023 will be a “year of transition for Medicare.”
Big changes in the program begin in 2024, the result of the Inflation Reduction Act. (Provisions in that legislation will allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices beginning in 2026 and limit what retirees will have to pay out-of-pocket for prescription drugs beginning in 2025.)
A few minor changes have already been announced for next year, he says: The Part D deductible next year will rise to $503 from $480 a year. The average premium for a Part D plan is forecast to fall slightly to $31.50 a month from $32.08 a month. The Part B premium, which is the bigger one, will be announced this month (October).
The cost-of-living increase for Social Security recipients is projected to be nearly 9 percent next year. That’s significant because Medicare Part B payments are deducted directly from Social Security. “If Part B premiums rise by a little bit, it means that seniors will get to receive most of that COLA in the form of higher Social Security benefits, which is a big deal for seniors. So even though it’s not directly an open enrollment issue, because it’s related to part B, I think it’s something seniors need to be aware of.”
” advise people to wait until the middle November or late November to actually make their 2023 selections”
Moeller says people should not be in a hurry to re-elect their plans or elect new ones because new plans won’t be publicly available until October and there is always a wrinkle or two in figuring out whether Medicare’s Plan Finder is working properly. Kaiser Family Foundation’s does a deep dive into Medicare trends, but it’s report for 2023 won’t be out until late October or early November, he says.
“So having said that, I advise people to wait until the middle November or late November to actually make their 2023 elections,” he says. “Any change made as late as December 7, which is the end of the annual period, will still take effect that January 1.”
“I just think people should do their homework, which I say every year,” he says. “The experts say people don’t do their homework.”
Additionally, he says, people should look for the annual Notice of Change, the annual statement on their plan which has to be emailed or mailed in September. Also, the recently released the 2023 version of Medicare and You, their annual handbook, available to download or get a print version. “It has some good information in it.”
Rodney A. Brooks is the former deputy managing editor/Money at USA TODAY. His retirement columns appear in U.S. News & World Report and Senior Planet.com. He has written for National Geographic, The Washington Post and USA TODAY. The author of “Fixing the Racial Wealth Gap,” Brooks has testified before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. His website is www.rodneyabrooks.com.