Health Care

What changes can I make during this year’s Medicare Open Enrollment Period?

 
What changes can I make during this year's Medicare Open Enrollment Period?Each year, current Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their Medicare coverage for the following year during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period that starts on October 15 and runs through December 7. Because this period is the only time during the year that all people with Medicare can make changes to their health and prescription drug plans for the following year, you should carefully consider your options. During this annual enrollment period, you can:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer prescription drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that does offer it
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers prescription drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t
  • Enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan if you didn’t enroll when you were first eligible (a late enrollment penalty may apply)
  • Switch from one Medicare Part D prescription drug plan to another
  • Drop Medicare prescription drug coverage

 
Your new coverage, or changes to your existing coverage for the new year, will take effect on January 1.
 
If you’re currently in (or join) a Medicare Advantage Plan, you have another opportunity to leave your plan and switch to Original Medicare (with or without a Part D prescription drug plan) during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period that occurs every year from January 1 to February 14. However, if you have Original Medicare you cannot make any changes during this period. In certain circumstances, if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D prescription drug plan, you may also qualify to make changes during Special Enrollment Periods. Visit medicare.gov for more information.
 

Do I need to make any changes to my Medicare coverage for next year?

 
Do I need to make any changes to my Medicare coverage for next year?During the Medicare Open Enrollment Period that runs from October 15 through December 7, you can make changes to your Medicare coverage that will be effective on January 1, 2017. If you’re satisfied with your current coverage, you don’t need to make changes, but you should review your options before you decide to stay with your current plan.
 
Your Medicare plan sends two important documents every year that you should review. The first, called the Evidence of Coverage, provides information about what your plan covers and its cost. The second, called the Annual Notice of Change, lists changes to your plan for the upcoming year that will take effect in January. You can use these documents to evaluate your current plan and decide whether you need different coverage. You should also review the official government handbook, Medicare & You 2017, which is available electronically or through the mail. It contains detailed information about Medicare that should help you determine whether your current plan is right for you.
 
As you review your coverage, here are a few points to consider:

  • What were your health costs during the past year, and what did you spend the most on?
  • Will your current plan cover all the services you need and the health-care providers you need to see next year?
  • Does your current plan cost more or less than other options? Consider premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs such as copayments or coinsurance costs; are any of these costs changing?
  • Do you need to join a Medicare prescription drug plan? When comparing plans, consider the cost of drugs under each plan, and make sure the drugs you take will still be covered next year.

 
If you have questions about Medicare, you can call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit the Medicare website at medicare.gov. You can use the site’s Medicare Plan Finder to see what plans are available in your area and check each plan’s overall quality rating. 

Dealing with Medical Billing Issues

 
Dealing with Medical Billing IssuesIt’s a common occurrence these days–you receive a sky-high medical bill in the mail. Maybe the bill is for medical services or treatments that you thought were covered by your insurance. Or perhaps you have difficulty understanding exactly which medical procedures you’re being charged for, or what the medical billing codes on your hospital bill mean.

The fact is, due to the complex nature of today’s medical billing industry, it’s difficult for many consumers to know exactly what they will end up having to pay for medical services or treatments. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make it easier to deal with any medical billing issues that may arise.

 
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How do I compare my health insurance options during open enrollment?

 
How do I compare my health insurance options during open enrollment?The decisions you make during open enrollment season regarding health insurance are especially important, since you generally must stick with the options you choose until the next open enrollment season, unless you experience a “qualifying” event such as marriage or the birth of a child. As a result, you should take the time to carefully review the types of plans offered by your employer and consider all the costs associated with each plan.

 
With most health insurance plans, your employer will pay a portion of the premium and require you to pay the remainder through payroll deductions. When comparing different plans, keep in mind that even though a plan with a lower premium may seem like the most attractive option, it could have higher potential out-of-pocket costs.

 
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Will I have to pay a penalty tax if I don’t have qualifying health insurance?

 

Will I have to pay a penalty tax if I don't have qualifying health insurance?It depends. One of the main objectives of the health-care reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), is to encourage uninsured individuals to obtain health-care coverage. As a result of the ACA, everyone must have qualifying health insurance coverage, qualify for an exemption, or pay a penalty tax. This requirement is generally referred to as the individual insurance or individual shared responsibility mandate.

 

Health insurance plans that meet the requirements of the ACA generally include employer-sponsored health plans, government health plans, and health insurance purchased through state-based or federal health insurance exchange marketplaces.

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