Open registration for Medicare: What’s new in 2022

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It’s hard to escape the Medicare ads that fill the airways every fall, when insurance companies vie for the attention of beneficiaries during the annual open enrollment period.

From October 15 to December 7, the more than 63 million Medicare beneficiaries can choose a new Medicare Part D drug plan, a new Medicare Advantage plan, or switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan or vice versa. Any change in coverage made during this period will take effect on January 1, 2022.

Despite the flurry of advertisements and public service announcements, most recipients stick to the coverage they receive. Seven in 10 Medicare beneficiaries did not compare plans during the 2018 open enrollment period, the most recent for which data is available, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

It’s a missed opportunity, experts say. While reviewing your insurance coverage can be tedious, the effort can pay off in reducing costs. Each year the plans are allowed to make changes that could potentially increase your personal expenses. Even if your coverage doesn’t change, your needs might. For example, you may have received a new diagnosis this year that results in new medications and specialist visits that may be more fully covered under a different plan.

By now, you should have received a notice in the mail from your insurance company outlining any changes planned for the next year. Here’s what to know about comparing your options, what you can do with Medicare Plan Finder. If you need help, you can call Medicare at 1-800-Medicare or contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for unbiased advice.

What’s new for Medicare Advantage

Advantage of Medicare is an alternative to Original Medicare. Also known as Part C, it offers care managed by private health insurers who contract with the government. (Aetna, UnitedHealthcare and Humana are among the providers.)

Medicare Advantage plans offer benefits that the original Medicare did not offer, such as limited dental and vision coverage. (There is a proposal in Congress that would provide dental, visual and hearing benefits in Original Medicare, but there is no guarantee that this will become law.) Most Medicare Advantage plans offer prescription benefits, and some offer benefits such as delivery of meals and transportation assistance to eligible members (check eligibility criteria before registering).

The average premium for Medicare Advantage will be $ 19 for 2022, up from $ 21.22 this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced. Although this is the average, many Medicare Advantage plans have premiums of $ 0.

This can make Part C more cost effective than the original health insurance, which beneficiaries often associate with an optional Part D drug plan and optional Medigap supplement plan. But with that accessibility comes a tradeoff: Many Medicare Advantage plans are HMOs with limited physician and hospital networks, so your choice of providers may be limited. With Original Medicare, you can see any doctor in the country who is taking Medicare.

If you’re not happy with your plan’s provider network – say you decide to become a snowbird and your new condition isn’t well covered – take a break before abandoning your Medicare Advantage plan. If you want to switch to Original Medicare and purchase a Medigap supplement plan, keep in mind that these plans are medically underwritten. This means that the insurer reviews your medical records and, apart from certain circumstances, you may be denied coverage or be charged more depending on your terms. For example, cancer patients will likely be unable to purchase new coverage. (Medigap supplement plans are regulated at the state level and are not part of open enrollment.) Review your options and make sure you can get coverage before you abandon your Medicare Advantage plan.

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What’s new for Medicare Part D

Many people with Original Medicare choose to purchase a stand-alone Part D drug plan to help cover drug costs. The 2022 average premium for Part D coverage will be $ 33 per month, up from $ 31.47 in 2021, CMS said. But it’s important to look beyond the premium to your total costs, which the Medicare tool will show if you enter your medications. Some plans may have a higher premium but better coverage for your prescriptions, resulting in lower overall costs. “It’s really doing your homework, figuring out what’s in your medicine cabinet,” says Gregg Ratkovic, president of Medicare for e-health, an online broker whose licensed agents help consumers compare their Medicare options.

Also be careful where you fill your prescriptions, Ratkovic says. If you have changed pharmacy and your new pharmacy is not a preferred pharmacy in your plan, it will likely result in higher costs.

Last year, CMS unveiled a new savings program for one in three beneficiaries with diabetes. The senior savings model, as it’s called, is designed to provide beneficiaries with Part D plans that offer a one-month supply of insulin for up to $ 35. This program continues to expand this year, with the participation of some Medicare Advantage plans, so beneficiaries who wish to take advantage of the program have more options to compare.

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