2018 Open Enrollment

The health insurance open enrollment season is upon us. Here are some things to consider as you review your options and enroll in a health insurance plan for 2018.

Insurance through an Exchange

Open enrollment begins November 1 and ends December 15; half the enrollment period of last year. Also, be aware that the exchanges will not be accessible on Sundays, as there will be “maintenance” activities being performed. Anticipate higher costs to you, most likely with fewer benefits provided.

Don’t just enroll in the plan you had last year. It might not be the same this year. I recommend first checking with your providers: doctor, therapist, hospital, to see what plan they are accepting in 2018. Then, review not only the monthly premium for the plan you are considering, but the co-pay amount and the deductibles associated with the plan. I have read about one plan with a $17,000 deductible.

If you are anticipating being eligible for some type of subsidy, then continue to enroll through the exchange. Otherwise, consider other sources for obtaining your health insurance. Because of all the governmental wrangling in the past months, insurance companies have adjusted their rates on the exchange in anticipation of limited or no government subsidies. You might be able to obtain better rates through individual insurance company websites, a professional organization or alumni association, AARP, or a medical insurance broker.

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Medicare Enrollment

The Medicare open enrollment period ends on December 7. Once again, don’t just assume that your current coverage is the most cost effective on available to you.

Take some time and become familiar with the http;//www.Medicare.gov website. There is a lot of valuable information, though it can be confusing at times to locate it on the site.

Begin by checking your Medicare Part D coverage for your current prescriptions. (Have there been prescription changes from last year?) Use the drug calculator: entering your medication, dosage, frequency, and whether you take a generic or brand drug. You will then have local pharmacies from which to choose to check how much your monthly prescription plan would cost.

Also review your supplemental or Medigap, plan. Once again, on Medicare.gov, click on the “Supplements and Other Insurance” tab on the top of the page. I recommend reading the section “How to Compare Medigap Policies”. It provides a chart comparing the various plan options and what they cover in each option. It is important to remember that all supplemental policies, by law, offer the same standardized basic benefits. So, Plan F from insurance provider ABC is going to have the same benefits and coverage as from insurance provider XYZ. Only the cost of the policy might be different.

Some supplemental plans offer coverage when traveling out of the country.  Some plans might include your Medicare Part B premium payment so that you only have one medical insurance payment to make each month. Make sure you check the co-pays and deductibles for any plan which you choose.

If you enter your zip code, the Medicare.gov website will assist in finding Medicare supplemental plans offered in your area. You can also check the individual insurance company websites, AARP, or an insurance broker who sells  medical insurance.

Medicare C, or Advantage, Plans

If you are currently enrolled in a Medicare C, or Advantage plan, remember that you have the option of changing to a Medicare A/B program but won’t be able to return to your Medicare C plan in future years once you have opted out.

First Time Enrollment for Medicare

Enrolling for Medicare for the first time in 2018: the enrollment period is three months prior to your birth month, your birth month, and three months after your birth month. I encourage you to enroll during the first three-month period so that your coverage begins the first day of your birth month when you turn 65.

open enrollment: take your time and ask questions

While the enrollment period might be shorter this year, there is still plenty of time to review your options, contact your providers, and enroll in the plan which is the best for you and your family. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance in finalizing your enrollment. This continues to be a very confusing but critical process, and, with a few exceptions, you can’t make changes until the next open enrollment period.

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Good luck!

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