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How to avoid costly mistakes during Medicare open enrollment

Medicareresources.org offers 3 tips to consumers for the Medicare annual election period, which begins Oct. 15

October 11, 2023

Minneapolis, MN – Significant changes to many Medicare plans in 2024 could cost Medicare beneficiaries hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars if they don’t act. Today, medicareresources.org released three tips to help consumers avoid costly mistakes during Medicare open enrollment, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

“We’re seeing some big changes in many Medicare plans and premiums for 2024. Depending on your plan, prescription drug coverage and your physician network can change year-to-year,” said Louise Norris, a health policy analyst for medicareresources.org “Doing a little research during open enrollment can go a long way toward ensuring you don’t pay too much in premiums or miss cost-saving opportunities.”

Here are more strategies to keep in mind:

Compare your options during Medicare open enrollment.

Most Medicare beneficiaries do not switch plans or even review their options, despite being bombarded by advertisements for different plans during open enrollment. Yet what you don’t know can cost – or save – you money. Keep in mind that a lot can change in a year, including your medical or financial needs.

“Insurers have made some notable changes to their plans for 2024,” said Jenny Chumbley Hogue, a health policy analyst for medicareresources.org. “So even if your medical or financial situation hasn’t changed, it’s still a good idea to take a fresh look at the available plan options.”

Medicare open enrollment – also known as the Medicare annual election period (AEP) – is a designated time when consumers can:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage – or vice versa.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, or from one Medicare Part D prescription drug plan to another.
  • Enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan if the consumer didn’t enroll when the consumer was first eligible. (A penalty may apply if the consumer hasn’t maintained continuous creditable drug coverage from another source.)

Carefully review prescription drug coverage.

When comparing Medicare coverage options, consider a plan’s out-of-pocket costs, including copayments, deductibles and coinsurance costs.

Your annual review should include Medicare Part D prescription drug (Part D) coverage, which you can obtain as a stand-alone plan or as part of a Medicare Advantage plan (MA-PD). You can use the Medicare.gov plan finder tool to see how each Part D plan or MA-PD will cover any medications that you’re already taking. It’s also important to make sure the pharmacies you need are in your desired plan’s network, and to compare what your out-of-pocket costs would be at multiple pharmacies.

“One of the most important things people can do – especially this year – is go online and compare how plans cover their prescription drugs,” said Chumbley Hogue. “Formularies and out-of-pocket costs can change every year. Medicare recipients could see significant cost savings just based on which pharmacy they use.”

See if you qualify for Extra Help.

Low-income Medicare beneficiaries may be eligible for financial assistance through Medicare’s Extra Help program, which can make prescriptions and premiums more affordable than they would be with Medicare Part D alone.

New for 2024 Part D coverage: The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will allow more people to qualify for full Extra Help by increasing the income limit for this program. In prior years, people with slightly higher incomes were eligible for partial Extra Help, but these enrollees will be eligible for full Extra Help in 2024. That’s because the IRA expanded eligibility for the full low-income subsidy benefit to individuals with incomes up to 150% of the federal poverty level. The federal government estimates this will help more than 300,000 beneficiaries.

Find more detailed information about Medicare open enrollment in our Medicare Open Enrollment Guide.

Medicareresources.org has been an online source of in-depth information about Medicare for consumers since 2011. The site provides an overview of the basics of Medicare coverage options, enrollment and eligibility; coverage FAQs; state-specific Medicare information; and a glossary of Medicare terms.


Contact:

Amy Fletcher Faircloth, [email protected]

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