What is new with Medicare for 2020?

Each new year is sure to bring changes and Medicare is no different. Here are some changes that you will want to know about.

New Medicare cards. Medicare began mailing the new Medicare cards to beneficiaries in April 2018. Up until Dec. 31 of 2019, you could use either your old, Social Security number based card or the new card, which has an 11 character, alpha-numeric identification that is random and yet unique to each beneficiary. As of Jan. 1, 2020, only your new card can be used. So pull out your red, white and blue Medicare card and double check that you have the correct version. Your providers can no longer accept the old information. If you find that you still have the old card, you can call 1-800-Medicare and order the new card, which will take four weeks to arrive. If you need it quicker, you can order an entitlement letter that will arrive in about 10 days and can be used until your new card comes. You can also order a new Medicare card online at http://www.ssa.gov or call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. Make sure that SSA has your updated contact information. They will mail the new card to the address they have on file for you. Be sure to destroy your old card once your new card arrives.

Cost changes in Medicare. The vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries will continue to have Premium Free Part A, which means you do not pay a monthly fee to have coverage. Most people have 40 credits on file with Social Security Administration, which entitles them to pay $0 premium for Part A Hospital coverage. However, those who do have to pay for Part A will be paying more. Those who have at least 30 credits or have a spouse with at least 30 credits, but less than the full 40, will pay $252 per month (an increase of $12 from 2019). If you and your spouse have less than 30 credits, the premium cost will be $458 per month (a $21 increase from 2019).

Part A. The Part A, in-patient deductible is rising from $1,364 to $1,408, an increase of $44. This deductible can occur more than once per year based on the number of benefit periods you are hospitalized. Hospital co-pays are on the increase as well. The day 61 to 90 co-pay will move to $352 from the 2019 $341, an upsurge of $11. The day 91 to 150 co-pay is going from $682 to $704, a jump of $22. The Skilled Nursing Facility co-insurance amount will escalate to $176, up from $170.50.

Part B. Part B costs will also see an upswing in 2020. The Monthly Standard Part B premium will change from $135.50 to $9 more at $144.60. The Part B annual deductible will move to $198 from the current 2019 amount of $185, a change of $14. For those who will be paying an Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA), there have been some changes as well. If you have questions about the IRMAA, please contact the Medicare Information Office for assistance. After the Part B deductible is met, Medicare will continue to pay 80% for medically necessary services and products when provided by a Medicare contractor. Medicare beneficiaries will continue to have a 20% co-pay.

Supplemental Medicare or Medigap plans. For those who are approaching Medicare eligibility, it is highly encouraged to look into Supplemental Medicare (Medigap) plans. Every new Medicare beneficiary, if 65 or older has a guaranteed right to purchase a Medigap plan. The open enrollment period begins when you have Part A and Part B and lasts six months. During this time, you can purchase any plan available through any company who offers it. You cannot be rejected and cannot be charged more than anyone else your age. These plans are designed to pick up a number of the costs mentioned above, including deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance. They can save beneficiaries thousands of dollars. You can choose from 10 different plans and 15 companies that are licensed to sell these plans in Alaska. Beginning in 2020, there are fewer plans available to those who are newly eligible, due to a law passed by Congress known as the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). The law prevents the purchase of plans that offer coverage of the Part B deductible ($198 in 2020). This law effects Plans F and C. Medicare beneficiaries already enrolled in these plans will keep their chosen coverage. But people born in 1955 or later will not be able to purchase these two plans.

If you would like assistance in understanding the enrollment process and assistance in choosing a plan, you can get help by calling the Medicare Information Office at 1-800-478-6065.

Nila Morgan is a Certified Medicare Counselor who works at the Anchorage Senior Activity Center.

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Nila Morgan is a Certified Medicare Counselor who works at the Anchorage Senior Activity Center.

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