Currently over 64 million Americans are Medicare beneficiaries. Many of them may be spending more money in 2023 simply because they didn’t know they should review their coverage yearly. Medicare is one of the most complicated systems to navigate, especially for seniors. Fortunately, there is a free nationwide service available to help beneficiaries make informed choices. The State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) provide local, in-depth, and objective insurance counseling and assistance to Medicare-eligible individuals, their families and caregivers. I have been a SHIP counselor, assisting Medicare beneficiaries, since 2009.
If you have any concerns about Medicare now is the time to address them. Open enrollment is yearly from October 15-December 7. Individuals may make as many changes as needed to their Medicare coverage during this period. Changes will take effect on January 1, 2023. Some changes that can be made are:
- Joining a new Medicare Advantage Plan.
- Joining a new Part D (prescription drug) plan.
- Switching from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
- Switching from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare.
Even if an individual does not intend to make any changes, it is prudent for all beneficiaries to review their current Medicare health and drug coverage. Premiums, coverages, benefits and drug costs can change yearly. It is recommended to consider other Medicare health and drug plan options in your area. For example, even if you do not plan to change your Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, you should check to see if there is another plan in your area that will offer you better health and/or drug coverage at a more-affordable price.
Research shows that people with Medicare prescription drug coverage could lower their costs by shopping among plans each year; there could be another Part D plan in your area that covers the drugs you take with fewer restrictions and/or lower prices.
Some things to examine are:
- Access to preferred health care providers, specialists, and hospitals.
- Access to preferred pharmacies.
- Access to needed benefits and services.
- Making certain that a plan covers necessary medications.
- Total costs for premiums, deductibles and cost-sharing.
Beneficiaries may make changes and review their coverage online at Medicare.gov (using the Plan Finder tool), by phone at 800-MEDICARE or with a SHIP counselor. If I can be of any help to any Bergen County beneficiaries please feel free to reach out to me at Project Ezrah at [email protected] or 201-569-0942 to schedule an appointment by phone. Wishing everyone good health and good health coverage in the new year.
By Tamra Ackerman, MSW, LSW, Project Ezrah