HOUSTON - Open enrollment for Medicare begins Friday. It’s a confusing time for many seniors to figure out which health plan they need.
A Medicare survey found 71% of enrollees did not compare the plan they are into other options. That means you could be paying hundreds more for prescriptions and medical care each year than you need to.
"If you signed up years ago and you’re letting it carry on from year to year, you're potentially leaving money on the table," said Louise Norris with HealthInsurance.org.
Start by reading your annual notification of renewal.
"It’s going to give you a side-by-side comparison of your current benefits and premiums, versus what they’re going to be next year," said Michael Ledgerwood with Senior Health Plans of Texas.
Seniors can enroll in Original Medicare. Most qualify for premium-free Part A, which covers hospital and hospice care, and Part B, which covers doctors, tests, and outpatient care.
"Medicare does have what we call gaps in its coverage, which are typically deductibles, 20% co-insurance. Because of that, you can purchase what’s called a Medicare Supplement or Medigap policy," said Ledgerwood.
And you'll need Part D for prescriptions. And pay close attention here.
"We are seeing it go down from 35 plans in the state to 26, which means some people may be getting moved to another plan automatically," said Ledgerwood.
That can affect how much you'll pay for your prescriptions. Or seniors can also choose a Medicare Advantage Plan, which includes all of those parts through a private insurance carrier. And there are many more plans to choose from this year.
"We are going from 55 plans available in Harris County in 2021 to 69 in 2022," said Ledgerwood.
On Medicare.gov, for example, "You can plug in which specific drugs you take and see what your out-of-pocket costs might be," said Norris.
You can call the toll-free Medicare hotline, 800-MEDICARE 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The State Health Insurance Assistance Program — or SHIP— counselors are also available to help.
Medicare enrollment runs now through December 7 and coverage begins January 1.