Categorized | Retirement, Your Money

5 simple tips for choosing a Medicare health plan

Couple, smiling,

It’s that time of year again: The Medicare annual enrollment period began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7.

Medicare is a critical source of health care for millions of Americans, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) sets this time for people to select and make changes to their plans each year.

As enrollment continues, the old adage “good health is priceless” remains true. According to a survey by Cigna, a health service company and Medicare insurance provider, health, well-being and financial security are strongly linked in the minds of Americans. Their research shows that many people have anxiety about their financial health that goes far beyond making health care benefit choices.

RELATED: Medicare, how and when to apply

That’s why it’s crucial Medicare consumers consider their health and budget needs as they evaluate health care options for 2016.

“Choosing a plan isn’t as simple as just keeping the one you had last year or looking only at the monthly premium costs. The goal should be to choose a plan that best meets your individual needs,” said Herb Fritch, president of Cigna-HealthSpring, Cigna’s seniors business unit. “Comparing affordability alongside the plan’s benefits and services is an important balance.”

Five Tips During Open Enrollment

To help you choose a plan and get the most from it, consider these five tips:

1: Make a list of your priorities and use it to compare plans. Focusing on prevention? Keeping out-of-pocket costs low? Staying active? Take time to evaluate plan options according to the health and financial goals you value most.

2: Be sure your plan offers comprehensive preventive care benefits and use them. Many health plans offer preventive health benefits at little or no cost. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 100,000 lives could be saved each year if everyone received the recommended preventive care.

3: Know your network. Many plans offer choices with a network of doctors. Choosing primary care doctors and specialists in network can provide better communication and care coordination, and keep your out-of-pocket costs down.

4: Get rewarded for staying active. Keeping fit is essential to healthy aging. Original Medicare doesn’t cover gym memberships or fitness programs, but some Medicare Advantage plans offer such benefits as part of their coverage. Many are free and some reward you for staying active.

5: Use free resources.

CMS’ Plan Finder helps you find the right plan in your area by offering tools to compare costs, covered medications and other items.

Local and state agencies on aging also connect older adults and caregivers with community resources. SHIP (state health insurance assistance programs) is a free program offered by states and local Area Agencies on Aging.  Specially trained volunteers can offer help with Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance questions by providing one-on-one counseling and information.

Call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227) for around-the-clock assistance to find out more about coverage options. TTY users should call 877-486-2048. Multilingual counseling is available.

Review the 2016 Medicare & You handbook.

As you weigh the options, Fritch offers this advice: “It’s worth it to take the time to set your priorities and see how plan benefits stack up. Only then can you choose a plan that really helps you get the most from it and reach your goals.” — StatePoint


One Response to “5 simple tips for choosing a Medicare health plan”

  1. Dennis Byron says:

    This short article is misleading (I’m being charitable):
    1. It is not true that “The Medicare annual enrollment period began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7.” The annual enrollment period for Medicare runs from January to March of each year.
    2. What is happening now is the annual enrollment period for Parts C and D of Medicare. However, you cannot participate in the annual Part C/D enrollment unless you are already on Medicare, and typically on both Parts A and B of Medicare — see point 1 above. (And whether you can change your private Medigap supplement choices now or your group retirement plan choices now depends on where you live and your group, respectively).
    3. Probably not worth mentioning but it is not true that “Medicare is a critical source of health care for millions of Americans…” Medicare is insurance. The fact that Medicare insurance and the rest of the article appears to be written by an insurance salesperson should cause you to be very cautious…
    4. Here is a good example of insurance salesperson slant: Although it is good advice to be “sure your plan offers comprehensive preventive care benefits…” it is certainly not true that “many health plans offer preventive health benefits at little or no cost.” As we all know the cost of those benefits are built into the premium. Why do these insurance salespeople think we seniors just fell off the turnip truck?
    5. And while it is certainly a good idea to get a plan with “comprehensive preventive care benefits,” the most comprehensive benefit is an annual physical exam and that is not provided with traditional Medicare. That does not mean traditional Medicare is not the best choice for you. (This article appears to be slanted against traditional Medicare because – see point 3 above.)


Leave a Reply