Medicare Open Enrollment - A Caregiver’s Checklist
Preparing for Medicare’s Annual Open Enrollment can be daunting. This is a checklist of issues for caregivers to consider and where to get help:
Start by comparing your loved one’s current coverage with other options. You may be able to save money or get extra benefits. Visit www.Medicare.gov/plan-compare to make sure your current plan is beneficial. For terminology you don’t understand, brush up using the definitions section in the official U.S. government Medicare handbook, Medicare & You 2023. You can access it online or by requesting a hard copy at: 1.800.MEDICARE (1.800.633.4227). The handbook is available in video format, different languages, large print, and Braille.
For free, unbiased telephone counseling, to help you navigate Medicare and/or Medicaid, contact the Michigan Medicare Medicaid Assistance Program at 1.800.803.7174.
Is your loved one’s current Medicare Advantage Plan, also known as Part C, still working well? Make a point of opening all mail from the private insurance provider that arrives in September and October to ensure you’re on top of any changes to premiums, deductibles, copays, formularies and prescriptions, as well as provider groups.
If your care recipient has a Medicare Supplement Insurance policy, also known as Medigap, pay attention to any premium increases. Your loved one may need to consider switching to a different Medigap policy, dropping this policy or switching to an Advantage Plan.
If out-of-pocket spending on hospital visits, prescription drugs and doctor’s appointments has increased in the current year because your loved one doesn’t have Medigap, Medicare Part D, or a Medicare Advantage Plan, add up those costs and decide whether a different mix of coverage would be a more affordable solution. It’s also worth looking into public programs that can assist with covering health care costs and premiums, such as Medicaid, a state Medicare Savings Program or the “Extra Help” program.
Make sure you have up-to-date information about your loved one’s current health status and future needs/concerns. Are they due for an appointment with their primary care physician? Will they need a referral to see a specialist in the near future? Would adding dental, vision or hearing coverage be beneficial? Make sure you have a current list of all their medications and know exactly why they are taking each one. If any of their prescriptions are brand name, ask their doctor or pharmacist if there are generic equivalents. If not, be prepared to request an exception from your loved one’s Part C or Part D plan in case the brand-name medication isn’t part of their prescription list or formulary.
Don’t Forget to Revisit Your Own Health Coverage
If you are a Medicare beneficiary yourself, don’t forget your own open enrollment needs. Caregivers are notorious for looking out for everyone but themselves. Have you taken care of your preventive visits this year? Is your current coverage both sufficient and affordable? Use the above tips to create an Open Enrollment game plan for yourself as well. Perhaps you are turning 65 in the next 12 to 18 months. MMAP counselors can assist you with weighing your own coverage options and ensure you don’t miss any important deadlines. They can be reached at 1.800.803.7174. Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period runs from Oct. 15 - Dec. 7 each year.