How to Make the Most of Medicare Open Enrollment

Sunrise Senior Living  |  October 16, 2018
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The annual Medicare open enrollment period is just around the corner. It’s an eight-week period when Medicare recipients can make changes to their existing plan. Adult children who are preparing to help a parent through this process might be confused about what to do and how to get started.

Seniors and their family members often decide to stick with their current plan just to avoid spending time reading the mailbox full of literature from various Medicare providers. While it might be easier, it’s not always best.

As your parent grows older, their health needs change. A plan that might have worked for them when they didn’t take medication or weren’t seeing their physician very often might not be the best plan anymore. There might be a better solution that will allow them to have better coverage or one that will save money.

Here are a few tips that can help you make the most of Medicare open enrollment before the window closes on December 7.

Preparing for Medicare Open Enrollment

  • Satisfaction: Is your loved one satisfied with their current providers and how easy it is to work with them? Or did they have to settle for a physician or other healthcare provider they really didn’t want because it was the only one covered by their plan? Make a list of things they are happy with and those they aren’t.
  • Examine healthcare expenditures: Gather your senior loved one’s healthcare expense receipts for the past year, or even the last two years. Add up their total costs for items like premiums, copays, and uncovered expenses. This will help you compare the true cost of their current plan with other available plans.
  • Review the Annual Notice of Changes (ANOC): Your parent should receive an Annual Notice of Changes in the mail in late September or early October. This notice lists changes in the plan—including costs—from this year to next. Take time to review it and identify any potential problems.
  • Check preferred providers: It’s also important to make sure your parent’s preferred physicians, hospitals, outpatient centers, and pharmacies will continue to be part of their Medicare network of providers in 2019.
  • Explore other options: If your parent is enrolled in traditional Medicare, you might want to explore Medicare Advantage plans, too. Some of these plans offer a wider range of benefits, sometimes even vision and dental coverage, for a reasonable price.

If you are struggling to navigate your way through all of the options, there are resources that can help.

Medicare Open Enrollment Resources

  1. My Medicare Matters: Created by the National Council on Aging, this easy-to-use site is home to a variety of resources and tips, ranging from how to avoid Medicare scams to how to compare one plan with another.
  2. State Health Insurance Assistance Plan (SHIP): SHIP advisors are available to help seniors in every state. They can answer questions about Medicare coverage and Medigap plans, as well as provide information on long-term care insurance. 
  3. Medicare Plan Finder: Another helpful resource is the Medicare Plan Finder. You use your zip code to search for plans in your area.

Finally, don’t overlook resources and programs in your own community. Local libraries, senior centers, and some senior living communities offer Medicare workshops that are open to seniors and their families.

If you have general questions about Medicare, our article, “The Guide to Medicare Coverage for Seniors” might be helpful.  It discusses topics ranging from Medicare eligibility to what is covered under Medicare A, B, C, and D.