When it comes to your Medicare health insurance plan, you should never just Set-and-Forget about it! Otherwise, you could find yourself with an ugly mess, or worse yet, you could be losing out on benefits or paying too much.
While Medicare Supplement plans stay relatively the same every year, Medicare Advantage plans and Prescription Drug Plans come out with new benefits every year. Additionally, there are state and county carrier expansions providing new plan opportunities. It’s a competitive environment from which Medicare beneficiaries can now choose from. For many, dental, vision and hearing are key benefits they must have as they age. For others, custodial care, a savings account and a gym membership are key. These types of benefits can now be part of their Medicare coverage depending on the plan selection.
Unfortunately, although many Medicare beneficiaries know they are allowed to change plans during the Annual Enrollment Period from October 15th – December 7th every year, they are not comparing plans due to the process being too challenging.
A recent analysis by KFF Organization, based on focus groups, revealed that most beneficiaries do not compare coverage options each year. In fact, almost 57% never or rarely compare their Medicare health coverage options.
KFF also found, through a survey, that the very people who may have the most at stake during the annual enrollment period, such as those in relatively poor health, are least likely to compare their plan options, which can lead to higher out-of-pocket costs. Moreover, a relatively small percentage of beneficiaries use the Medicare official information resources that are designed to support informed decision-making. Many seniors cite it’s too difficult to understand.
“With a growing number of Medicare private plan choices available each year, the fact that such a large share of seniors and people with disabilities are not comparing coverage options each year warrants attention, given the potential consequences of these decisions.” KFF Organization
While Medicare.gov tries to promote materials that make understanding Medicare “easy” the fact of the matter is that it is not easy. And the reason it’s not “easy” is because every year there are new plans in every market by a variety of carriers. Every year, the highly competitive world of Medicare Advantage plans is continually trying to outdo the other plans and are offering more competitive benefits. Also, the information coming out of Medicare.gov is very high level and they can never recommend a plan based on your needs, which is what most people are searching to find.
The other factor making Medicare information more confusing is the false advertising being done by big telemarketing corporations using celebrity spokespeople like Joe Namath and Jimmy Walker who tout too-good-to-be-true benefits. The reason why these commercials are now inundating our airwaves is due to a change by the CMS on marketing rules allowing this type of advertising. Not only has the CMS received almost a half a million consumer complaints about the commercials, but the high percentage of disenrollment by beneficiaries who are being tricked into enrolling in a plan that doesn’t meet their needs is skyrocketing. These large corporate telemarketing firms are causing even more confusion amongst Medicare beneficiaries.
The only clear solution is to seek out the advice of a local (in your state) independent Medicare insurance agent. You pay nothing for using an Independent Agent and the information you get is going to be objective and in your best interest because the agent is focused on your satisfaction, not trying to meet a daily quota.
Additionally, the Independent Medicare agent has gone through several certifications, background checks and are compliant with the Insurance Carrier’s they represent. The Independent agent will be able to show you a variety of plans in your area, based on your unique circumstances. They know your doctors, your pharmacy and the local carrier leadership when you need that extra support. The local agent is in your corner, they will be some of your biggest advocates when you need help and make the hard calls on your behalf.
Your healthcare is extremely important. Make sure to check on what is available to you to get the benefits you deserve every year. With plans changing yearly and new benefits being rolled back, it is in every single Medicare beneficiary’s best interest to check their plans annually. If you’re working with a trusted licensed agent, it will be an informative and worthwhile experience and if you do it annually, it will be an hour well spent.
If you’re looking for a LOCAL agent, make sure to check out the Medicare Advantage Plans Network of Agents (www.themedicareadvantageplans.com), where local agents are working together to offer an alternative to the big corporate telemarketers. Or search for an Independent Agent in your hometown to ensure you get the best – LOCAL – service!