2018 Medicare Open Enrollment Tips

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By Dawn Lund, Director of Medicare Programs

These are some tips that I have learned over the past 6 years offering unbiased guidance in navigating your Medicare choices.  If you are a new Medicare beneficiary, a seasoned Medicare beneficiary, or a caregiver, these tips were written for you.

Medicare Open Enrollment occurs annually and always starts on October 15 and ends at midnight on December 7th.  For most beneficiaries, this is the only time of year to make changes to the coverage they currently have.  Even if you are happy with your current coverage and prescription drug plan (part D), take the time to review your coverage.  The areas you would want to look at to see if there are increases or changes with the monthly premium are cost-sharing, annual out-of pocket costs (OOP),  and network and benefits.   Are your medications still on the part D plans formulary?  You can use the Medicare.gov online tool called the “Plan Finder,” to review your plan coverage with the other available plans.  Enter your medications into the plan finder and it will pull up the lowest cost part D plan for you needs.  Don’t forget to record your druglist ID # when you do this.  This allows you to pull up the list anytime from Medicare.gov.

Unfortunately, the health insurance plans and Medicare Part D plans can make changes.  You need to check on the preferred networks for pharmacies to be sure your pharmacy accepts your prescription drug plan.  If you discover there is a drug plan that will lower your OOP costs in 2018, or you find a health plan that will better fit you needs- now is the time to make changes.  These changes will take place January 1, 2018.

If you need to take a very costly medication, and even with a prescription drug plan the cost is still high, here is one of my favorite resources:  Needymeds.org.  If you would prefer calling, their phone number is: 1-800-503-6897.   This website offers a number of patient assistance programs and many allow you to be enrolled into a Medicare Part D plan and have generous income guidelines.

In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have an incredible guide called “Health Care Choices for Minnesotans on Medicare.”  It is published annually by the Minnesota Board on Aging & Senior Linkage Line.  You can receive one by calling the Senior Linkage Line 1-800-333-2433, or go online:  www.mnhealthcarechoices.com.

If you would like assistance with this process of comparing, doing research, and reviewing your options you can call the Minnesota Senior Linkage Line or Senior Community Services (952-767-7889) for unbiased guidance by highly trained staff and volunteers.