Is it time to change your Medicare Advantage coverage?
Medicare’s most recent open enrollment period wrapped up in December, but if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and you’re not happy with it, you still have an opportunity to switch. Medicare Advantage’s annual open enrollment period allows you to replace one Advantage plan with another, or drop Advantage altogether and sign up for Original Medicare, instead.
1. Your preferred providers are no longer in-network
One downside to Medicare Advantage is that unlike Original Medicare, it limits you to a specific network of providers. If you have a trusted doctor or facility that’s no longer considered in-network, it pays to find out if there’s an affordable alternative that allows you to continue seeing the providers who know your medical history and make you the most comfortable.
2. Your medications got more expensive
If a medication you take regularly has recently moved from a lower tier to a higher tier under your Advantage plan, then that could be reason enough to switch. This especially holds true if your prescriptions land you in a specialty tier – the most expensive option on the table for brand-name drugs, and, occasionally, generic drugs as well.
3. There are cheaper alternatives
Maybe your Medicare Advantage plan didn’t get more expensive from the previous year, or reclassify your medications so that they cost more. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a cheaper option available.
Medicare recently revamped its online Plan Finder, so you can search for Advantage plans in your area and compare them by premium and drug costs. If, in the course of that search, you see that there’s a less expensive plan that offers equivalent coverage to what you have now, switching could be a huge money-saver.
4. You want a plan with extra benefits
One big reason so many seniors opt for Medicare Advantage over Original Medicare is to gain access to additional benefits the latter won’t cover. But if your current Advantage plan doesn’t offer the perks you’re after, then it pays to look into finding a new one.
For example, an estimated 93 percent of Advantage plans offer a fitness benefit, while 88 percent offer a dental benefit and 87 percent pay for eye exams and glasses. If your plan doesn’t offer these features, finding one that does could save you money.
There are plenty of good reasons to move from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, so if you’re currently enrolled in Advantage, you have from January 1 through March 31 each year to change your coverage.
Remember, too, that if you’re unhappy with your current plan but can’t find a suitable alternative, there’s always the option to revert back to Original Medicare and sign up for a Part D plan. This especially holds true if you’re traveling more often that you initially anticipated, and you want the option to see a doctor pretty much anywhere in the country.
(Before switching back to Original Medicare, be sure to check whether you’re able to purchase a Medigap plan to protect yourself against Medicare’s out-of-pocket costs. Original Medicare alone doesn’t come with an out-of-pocket spending limit for health services.)
Maurie Backman has been writing professionally for well over a decade, and her coverage area runs the gamut from healthcare to personal finance to career advice. Much of her writing these days revolves around retirement and its various components and challenges, including healthcare, Medicare, Social Security, and money management.