Everyone needs to review their Medicare plan
Open enrollment ends Dec. 7
December 1, 2017
I consider myself an expert in the areas of retirement and personal finance, but I admit that I’ve put review of my Medicare coverage on autopilot. I am the author of the Washington Post bestseller, “AARP Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life,” and have written many other books and articles on the subject. Yet health insurance can be challenging to understand for me too.
There is a new survey that was recently released called The “Cost of Complacency,” that was conducted by Kelton Global on behalf of WellCare Health Plans, Inc. The survey found that retirees are more likely to comparison shop for other common living expenses, such as cable and internet service and groceries, than for their Medicare plan. The research showed that 62 percent of seniors don’t review their plan annually to make sure they are getting the best deal or the right coverage.
I think this is a costly mistake. A Kaiser Health study found that people who switched Medicare plans after comparison shopping saved on average almost $200 a year. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, for many seniors it’s significant. Over time it can add up to thousands of dollars in savings.
But not reviewing my coverage is a mistake not just in terms of dollars and cents. It’s also about the kind of health care coverage I have. Although our current Medicare coverage has worked fine for my wife and me for many years, seeing this survey has led me to start reviewing our plan and evaluating whether it’s still the right one for us. And, I’m not looking at our plan through the lens of today but, rather, what our health issues might be over the next year.
Take for example blood pressure. A few weeks ago, my blood pressure readings were in the “normal” range. But, just this week, the guidelines changed, and now that same BP is considered elevated. Will my doctor put me on medication? If so, will my current plan cover those prescriptions? These are the questions I’m asking myself, and the types of questions that all seniors should be asking themselves.
I understand that reviewing my Medicare plan may not be among the most fun things that I do in a day.
In fact, the WellCare data showed that people dread researching health plans. One in five said they would describe the experience as awful, with more women than men finding it painful, frustrating and confusing. Almost one-quarter of seniors say reviewing their plan is among the top two most unpleasant things they do, including renewing their driver’s license.
But it would be a mistake for me to avoid reviewing my plan. I’ll be looking at some key things beyond just the cost of the premiums and deductibles. I’ll want to make sure that I’m enrolled in the right prescription drug plan. And I’ll want to evaluate whether I’ll have coverage if I need other medical care such as rehabilitation services, diagnostic tests and care for cognitive and neurological decline. These services are not always fully covered by traditional Medicare. That’s why it’s so important for us to review our options, whether that’s the traditional Medicare Parts A and B, Prescription Drug Plans (Part D), and private coverage.
If you want more information visit http://www.costofcomplacency.com.
Full disclosure: after seeing the results of this survey I agreed to be a spokesman for WellCare to help encourage seniors to review their Medicare coverage annually.
Assistance in Alaska
For help reviewing and choosing a Medicare Part D plan, call the Alaska Medicare Information Office at 269-3680 in Anchorage or toll-free statewide at 1-800-478-6065.