HOUSTON - Open enrollment for Medicare begins October 15 and runs through December 7.
You can enroll in Medicare when you turn 65 or during an enrollment period if you haven't already, or you can change Medicare plans.
Medicare can look like alphabet soup, so here's how Nerdwallet's Liz Weston breaks it down.
Medicare Part A covers hospitalizations. "That's the part that's typically free for most people," said Weston.
Part B covers doctor visits. "That's something they do have to pay a monthly premium for.
Then there's part D, which is the prescription coverage. And then there's part C, which would seem to be part of the rest but is actually a substitute. It's sort of an all in one version.
As she said, Medicare Part D helps cover the cost of prescription drugs, but not all, so check whether the meds you need are covered on Medicare.
"And those actually change all the time, so even if you have a plan now that you're happy with, you want to make sure you're still covered next year," Weston explained. But know this. Parts A, B, and D together don't cover everything.
"That's where the Medicare Supplement plans come in. They cover the gap. That's where private insurance comes in that you get to supplement those other parts.
If you want to do the all-in-one and get all your insurance from a private insurer, that's Medicare Advantage and that's the Part C. You either do one or the other, you can't do both."
Medicare recipients will also be eligible for free benefits counseling from the Houston Health Department's Area Agency on Aging.
It is a period for beneficiaries to compare all their Medicare options and make changes to their health or prescription drug coverage for the following year.
“There are a few new things this year. Many of the drug plans are offering a 30-day supply of insulin for $35 or less a month. If you have diabetes, take insulin, and enroll in one of these plans, you could save almost $500 a year in out-of-pocket costs,” said Rose Ortega, a benefits counselor with the Houston Health Department's Area Agency on Aging.
Clients need the following items on-hand during appointments:
- Medicare card (if changing current benefits)
- A list of current medications
- Award letter from Social Security or proof of income
- Proof of current health insurance