What do I need to know about this year's Medicare Open Enrollment Period?
That's the question posed by a reader to Jeffrey Levine, director of advanced planning at Buckingham Wealth Partners, in this episode of Ask the Hammer.
And the answer is what you should do each and every year during Medicare's Open Enrollment Period. Compare your the same as it was last year and the year before that and the year before that. Evaluate whether your current plan is still the best policy for you. Remember too that your 2019 plan will likely change in 2020 and those changes were detailed in the annual notice of change or ANOC that you should have received by now.
And as you evaluate your plan versus other plans, remember that there's no right or wrong choice. But "there is a right or wrong choice for you," says Levine.
And that means "understanding each of the options, benefits, and drawbacks, and then weighing them against one another." he says.
For instance, if you want the flexibility of being able to see the greatest number of doctors, maybe traditional Medicare is your best choice, he says. For others, Medicare Advantage may be the best choice. And still others will want to consider the costs and benefits of a Medigap policy. "It really comes down to what's important for you," says Levine. Likewise, it's important to find the best Medicare Part D plan for you, especially if your medications have changed or your current plan has changed what it covers.
Another factor to consider is geography. Some states have more Medicare Advantage options than others, for instance.
Levine also recommends talking to professionals who provide independent and competent advice and others if you need help sorting through your options. And, when working with an insurance agent or broker, ask them if they shop policies or just represent one insurer. You have to do your "due diligence" and it should be every year, says Levine.
Levine's last bit of advice: Never just look at one plan. Compare what's covered and costs. "Those who do more research, those who do more due diligence are generally going to end up in a better situation, whether it be having better coverage or lower costs, or just understanding what they're buying better and having greater peace of mind," he says. "But that comes at a cost. And that cost is your time. It's your effort, it's work."
Here's a checklist of things to consider during Medicare's Open Enrollment Period.