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Benzinga

Too Few Seniors Consider Medicare Options Every Year

More than half of seniors are missing out on one of the most important benefits available to Medicare beneficiaries. Each year, millions of Americans with Medicare have the opportunity to review their current coverage and consider switching to cut costs or get better coverage. An analysis of recent studies reveals that few people take advantage of the opportunity. Medicare plan switching is available to those on Original Medicare. About 37 million Americans have Medicare coverage that works on a fee-for-service basis. Individuals can see any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare, and the government program will foot its share of the bill for any Medicare-covered service. An annual review is also an option for the 26.5 million people enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. The 46 million people on prescription drug benefit plans (PDPs) may benefit from an annual review to see if a better option is available. The potential savings can be significant. A recent study found that people on a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan could save an average of $ 486 per year by switching to a different plan. The savings were up to twice as high for people enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan. Unfortunately, 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 with age. Two-thirds (66%) of people aged 85 and over say they never review their coverage. The annual Medicare Enrollment Period (AEP) which runs from October 15 to December 7 provides the best opportunity to review the current benefits and costs of the Medicare Advantage and Medicare PDP plans. Increasingly, industry experts recommend that individuals begin the review process during the less busy months leading up to the AEP. Increased competition between Medicare insurance companies and healthcare providers makes comparisons increasingly beneficial. Comparing the available options can be complex. In many places, there are up to 30 Medicare Advantage (MA) plans and up to 40 different prescription drug plans. For those considering Medicare (Medigap) supplement options, you can find at least 20 different insurance companies competing for your business. Most seniors on Medicare report that the program is easy to understand. However, a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 37% of Medicare beneficiaries said it was difficult or very difficult to understand the program. Finding information doesn’t have to be complex. The official Medicare website can be a good place to start. However, just under half (44%) of seniors said they had never visited the website. Many of those who have accessed the information indicate that the volume of information can be confusing and some parts are unclear. Finding Medicare Dollars and Smart Answers Although Medicare is a federal program, the options available are local. A map available in a postcode may not be available in a neighboring area. Or, the costs may be different. The benefits of the plan and significant options such as free gym memberships are continually being added to attract more consumers. Creating a simple written checklist comparing the benefits and associated costs is a good way to start. If you are currently covered by Medicare, write down what you like and what you don’t. Online resources can be a good place to start your exam. The same goes for many entities that advertise on television. However, to get the best information about your area, consider finding and working with a local Medicare insurance agent. Ask if they offer both Medicare Advantage and Medigap options. What if they’re willing to help you compare your drug plan options? An online directory lists Medicare agents listed by zip code. Go to 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 translate into better coverage, improved satisfaction, and of course, savings. It seems like a more than worthwhile investment of time. See more from BenzingaClick here for Benzinga options tradesThese Best Medicare Resources May Help Seniors Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.


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