Medicare Open Enrollment is underway. While it’s always important for people with Medicare to review their coverage, this year it’s even more critical.
Unless Congress acts by the end of the year, nearly 7 million people with Medicare could be facing hikes of up to $700 per year for their Medicare premiums and deductibles in 2016. That’s on top of the nearly 80% of beneficiaries who have been notified their Medicare prescription drug coverage rates will increase next year. And while costs keep rising, Social Security recipients will not see an annual cost of living adjustment to help.
“Open Enrollment is a short window of opportunity for people with Medicare to make sure that they’re getting the best value for their money when it comes to health coverage,” said Lisa Popovsky, Director of the Las Vegas Senior Lifeline, a program of the Jewish Federations of Las Vegas. “Many people don’t take advantage of this opportunity to review their coverage, to plan, and to take action. That short-term thinking can lead to long-term costs. Now is the time to determine how you’re really spending your health care dollars—and to budget for 2016.”
People with Medicare have through Dec. 7 to evaluate their coverage and make changes. Changes made during Open Enrollment take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
The National Council of Aging recommends that all people with Medicare use this 6-step checklist during Open Enrollment:
- Understand your current Medicare: Gather all the Open Enrollment information you’ve received so you know your coverage, premium costs, coinsurance, and copayments. Add up your total out-of-pocket costs for 2015.
- Get educated: Understand what’s available, so you can make an informed choice for your situation.
- Make a list: What is most important to you—coverage, doctors, medicines, hospitals, pharmacy networks—and do you anticipate any new or changing health needs in the coming year?
- Compare your options: Use the Medicare Plan Finder on Medicare.gov to compare policies in your area. Pay attention to the Star Ratings for each plan. Remember, the best choice for you may not be the plan that has the lowest monthly premium.
- See if you qualify for Extra Help: Depending on your income, you may be eligible for programs to help you pay your health care costs.
- Make a budget: Consider how health costs fit into your overall spending. Don’t forget to include other health expenses like dental, vision, hearing or premiums for supplemental insurance.
“Choosing the right Medicare coverage is complicated, but help is available,” said Janice Weiss, Support Service Specialist at East Valley Family Services. . “The annual notice of change can be 60 pages long! It’s a lot to understand. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and are unsure what to do, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP.”
SHIPs are federally funded programs that provide free assistance for understanding Medicare. “We have a great system here in Southern Nevada, which utilizes a trained network of volunteers that can do one-on-one assistance and counseling. We link our Senior Lifeline clients with SHIP whenever they need any assistance with or have questions about their Medicare,” said Popovsky.
To find your local SHIP location, contact the toll-free statewide counseling number 1-800-307-4444.
Las Vegas Senior Lifeline is a non-denominational program of the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas. The mission is to provide compassionate care to frail, lower-income seniors with resources to enable them to remain living independently in their own homes. The center is staffed by caring professionals, who provide support, advice and referrals for service. If you would like more information about the Las Vegas Senior Lifeline please contact Lisa Popovsky at 702-933-1195.