It’s that time of year again. Advertisements for Medicare Advantage plans are flooding my mailbox and email. I’m even getting phone calls about the plans. And, every time I turn on the TV, there’s another ad about Medicare advantage, with infomercials to be tolerated, too.
From Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, people on Medicare can:
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan or vice versa.
- Join, drop, or switch a Part D prescription drug plan if they are on Original Medicare.
- Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan if they are already on one.
What is Medicare Advantage?
It’s a way to combine Original Medicare and a supplemental or medigap policy. Health maintenance organizations, preferred provider organizations, and private fee-for-service companies offer the plans. They receive a federal payment per person per month to manage Medicare benefits for recipients.
Although 78 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are happy with their current Medicare plan, 79 percent also intend to review their coverage options during open enrollment season, according to a survey by eHealth Inc. A quarter of respondents think they’re likely to switch to a new plan.
A third of respondents said that prescription drug costs are the No. 1 factor they rely on when choosing a new Medicare plan. Seventy percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees expressed interest in additional or expanded dental and vision benefits, while 35 percent expressed interest in coverage for alternative medicine treatments.
What are the disadvantages of a Medicare Advantage plan?
- Comparing insurance policies is difficult. Unless seniors are careful, they could end up paying more money for fewer services.
- Seniors may have to change doctors and hospitals.
- Some Medicare Advantage plans don’t offer prescription drug benefits.
- Seniors may have to wait for the next enrollment period to transfer out of the plan if they don’t like it.
- Many members of Congress think giving private companies extra money to manage Medicare recipients’ benefits is too expensive. As a result, Medicare Advantage plans could be changed significantly or eliminated.
- Insurance companies may use high-pressure sales to get seniors to switch to Medicare Advantage plans.
Contact your state insurance commissioner’s office to get in touch with your state’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program. SHIP offices provide free help to Medicare beneficiaries who have questions or issues with their health insurance. You can call a counselor to help you compare policies or to attend a workshop/presentation in your area.
Be sure to get help to compare policies if you’re going to buy a new medigap policy or switch. Medicare Advantage salespersons don’t have your interests at heart. They just want to make a lot more money.