November 23, 2021
Need Help Choosing Your Medicare Options?
This blog is for the procrastinators. The last day of Medicare open enrollment for people who want to switch their Medicare Advantage or Part D insurance plans is Dec. 7.
The hoopla around this open enrollment period can be confusing, because Medigap supplemental plans are on a different schedule. The optimal time to buy a Medigap plan is during a six-month window after your 65th birthday, which is the only time insurers are required under federal law to sell you a Medigap policy. Switching to a different Medigap plan during the current open enrollment is trickier, because you can be denied coverage, though several states have made it easier to enroll or switch from Medigap or Advantage to a new Medigap plan.
Retirees with Advantage or Part D plans can freely change plans during open enrollment but are usually reluctant to shop around. But insurance experts warn that the terms of existing policies can change, and this is the time to see if there’s a better deal out there. The Kaiser Family Foundation said retirees have a record number of Advantage plans to choose from for 2022 – double the number available five years ago. But this can be a double-edged sword if choices sow confusion.
If you haven’t plunged into researching your Advantage or Part D options, the resources listed below can help.
Free counselors. Every state has a counseling program to explain the Medicare options. The counselors are free, and this website lists every state with a link to that state’s contact information. Although volunteer counselors may not be as knowledgeable as insurance brokers who sell the policies, many volunteers are former health care professionals or are themselves enrolled in Medicare and know the system.
Federal plan finders online. Choosing the right Part D plan for your particular suite of medications is complicated, and retirees often make costly mistakes. That’s why the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has a website to help retirees choose the best drug plan. You might want to recruit a family member to help you sort through your options. The same website can also help with finding an Advantage plan.
Online information. The Kaiser Foundation is a reliable source of information about Medicare, starting with its answers to frequently asked questions. The National Council on Aging provides information about Medigap, and this website lists the states with looser enrollment periods for Medigap.
Insurance agents. This blog would never advise you to call a specific broker, but many have brochures that explain the basics. This free Retire Guide describes Medigap and Advantage Plans.
Here’s a short list of previous Squared Away blogs about Medicare:
- Enrollment Trends in Medicare Options
- Medicare Advantage Shopping: 10 Rules (Be aware the list of rural counties that do not sell Advantage plans has changed. Here is an update – see Figure 5.)
- Part D: More Retirees Face High Drug Costs
Squared Away writer Kim Blanton invites you to follow us on Twitter @SquaredAwayBC. To stay current on our blog, please join our free email list. You’ll receive just one email each week – with links to the two new posts for that week – when you sign up here. This blog is supported by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.