Choreography | iStock | Getty Images
This is one of those times when you may not want to follow the herd.
Most Medicare beneficiaries – 71% – do not explore their insurance options during open enrollment, according to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. As the specifics of health plans change from year to year, experts consider this to be a mistake.
“It can be a really unpleasant surprise for people who think they are happy with their plan and then are faced with the reality in January that their plan has changed affecting their care or expenses.” said Juliette Cubanski, assistant director for the Foundation’s Medicare Policy Program.
More from Personal Finance:
Here’s how to update your budget for fall
Falling birth rates can have sustained economic repercussions
Good financial habits are most commonly used by “super savers”
The Medicare fall sign-up period begins Friday and runs through December 7th. Simply put, this annual window is for adding or changing coverage for an Advantage Plan (Medicare Part C) and / or Prescription Drugs (Part D).
You can change, add or remove these parts of your coverage and the changes will take effect on January 1st. If you don’t do anything, your 2021 plan will generally continue through 2022.
The case-open registration affects most beneficiaries in one way or another because of the coverage they choose. For example, of Medicare’s 63.3 million patients, 26.7 million choose to get their Part A (inpatient care) and Part B (outpatient care) benefits through Advantage plans, which are likely to include Part D.
The rest stays with the original Medicare (Parts A and B) and often combines it with a separate Part D plan. A total of 48.5 million beneficiaries have prescription drug coverage through either an Advantage Plan or a standalone plan.
Among beneficiaries of Advantage plans, 68% said they made comparisons, according to a study by Kaiser, which looked at coverage options for 2019. That compares to 73% of those in the original Medicare.
Changes to your Advantage Plan can include adjustments to the monthly premiums, co-payments, deductibles, co-insurance or maximum expenses. Your drug coverage could change, as could doctors, hospitals, and other providers that are considered in-network for your Advantage Plan.
If after signing up in the fall you find that the Advantage plan you have chosen does not fit well, you can change your insurance cover between January 1st and March 31st. You can either go to another Advantage plan or to the original Medicare and Prescription alone plan.
However, you cannot switch from your standalone Part D plan to another during this period at the beginning of the year.
The average monthly premium for Advantage plans will be $ 19 next year, up from $ 21.22 in 2021, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The average monthly premium for Part D in 2022 is $ 33, up from $ 31.47 this year.
Part B monthly premiums – as well as other miscellaneous cost details – for 2022 have not yet been announced. However, according to Medicare’s latest trustee report, the standard Part B premium is expected to increase from $ 148.50 to $ 158.50 this year.