5 critical questions to answer during Medicare annual enrollment

(BPT) - Millions of people across the country rely on the federal health insurance program Medicare. If you're one of them, it's important to know about the annual open enrollment period where you can make changes to your plan so you're set for the year ahead. To get the best Medicare coverage for your needs, it's crucial to act now.

Annual enrollment for Medicare starts Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7, so now is the time to check your plan and update coverage for the coming year. While many people stick to the same plan they have used in the past, subtle changes can leave you wondering what is best for your personal situation.

To help you navigate open enrollment with ease and get the best plan for your needs, ask yourself these important questions:

1. When is the deadline?

Plan to enroll by Dec. 7, 2021. The exception is if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan and want to return to Original Medicare and a standalone Part D plan. If so, you can do that from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14 of each year.

2. Is your current Medicare plan offered next year?

Plans vary from year to year. Medicare updates terms and changes how they pay the plans, so it's important to explore what's available. If you can't get your current plan, start researching alternatives to fit your needs.

3. Will this plan meet your health needs and budget?

Many things can change in a Medicare plan, from benefits to provider networks. You’ll receive an annual notice of change that explains adjustments, but you should still take time to compare your existing plan to next year's offering during enrollment. More specific questions to keep in mind include:

  • What are monthly premiums and annual deductibles?
  • How much do doctors' visits cost (co-pays and co-insurance)?
  • Which prescriptions are covered and which are not?
  • Do your current doctors accept this plan?

4. Does the plan include additional coverage, such as for vision?

Your Medicare plan may not provide the vision coverage you need. Consider complementing your Original Medicare coverage with a VSP Individual Vision Plan. These plans cover glasses or contacts and eye exams, which can help detect glaucoma and other eye problems, as well as health issues like diabetes and hypertension. Overall, VSP typically saves people more than $200 per year on their eye care, and has the largest network of independent doctors, so it’s likely you can keep seeing the doctor you trust.

5. How can you enroll?

If you decide to switch plans, you can use the tools on www.Medicare.gov to get answers to your questions before enrolling. On the website you can enter prescriptions, your pharmacy preference and other details and you'll learn which plans are right for you. This makes it easy to compare plans and associated costs. Once you decide, you can begin enrollment.

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