It may seem overwhelming to start shopping for a new Medicare plan, especially for those people who have stayed in the same plan for several years.Higher costs and the prospect of no cost of living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits in 2016, however, may have some seniors taking a closer look at their options this year.
There are a number of options to consider, especially for those people using Original Medicare since they joined the federal health insurance program. It also can be an important season for those who haven’t reviewed their coverage in several years.
The following are some tips that may help reduce your Medicare costs in 2016.
Revisit your Medicare plan options to find a lower monthly premium. Remaining in your plan from year to year can be costly. Medicare beneficiaries who don’t change plans could see a 13% price hike on average for 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.But in general, Medicare Advantage premiums aren’t increasing significantly for next year. So it will pay to shop around. Beneficiaries can choose from among 19 Medicare Advantage plans on average in their area. The range of premiums in one area may vary by hundreds of dollars. This also can be true of Part D prescription drug plans, with an average 26 plans available, Kaiser reported.
Medicare is more than your premium. Many people understand that they pay more than their monthly premium to receive health care. Often, there are additional costs, like the copay when you arrive at the doctor’s office, or additional bills sent by mail after a procedure.
These are the costs that come out of your own pocket, for co-insurance, deductibles, etc. When you choose your coverage, it can be incredibly valuable to understand the potential full cost of your coverage for the year.
To get a handle on these costs, consider working with a Medicare specialist. Some Medicare plan selection services can do this number-crunching for you, to give you an estimate of your total annual costs. Then you can use this knowledge when shopping for your Medicare plan for 2016.
Reduce prescription drug costs. The costs of medications today can be financially crippling, especially for people with chronic health issues. It can be incredibly vital to become a more informed consumer and to advocate for yourself when making decisions about medications.
Your choice of a Part D prescription drug plan will be critical. You also can take important steps to reduce costs. For example, talk with your doctor about lower-cost medication alternatives, seek pharmacies that provide you with the best financial incentives, consider mail-order options through your provider, and other cost-saving
Consider a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time. Another alternative to consider in 2016 is using your Medicare Advantage trial right period. If you’ve always been enrolled in Original Medicare with a Medigap supplemental policy, you have a unique opportunity known as a trial right to use a Medicare Advantage plan.
This means you can sign up with a Medicare Advantage Part D plan, which provides you with comprehensive coverage in place of Parts A, B and D. You can use this coverage for up to 12 months, and later switch back to Original Medicare and your supplemental coverage if you are dissatisfied.
You could save a lot of money by using one Medicare Advantage plan, rather than paying for your package of Original Medicare, Part D and Medigap benefits.
– Get engaged. Learning happens at all ages. Medicare is one of those programs that it seems you can never know enough about. But it’s also important to understand how your choices affect your costs.
One of the first steps may be reaching out for help. If the Internet is not your thing, there are a number of Medicare resources that can help you by telephone. Your local senior center could be a place to get started. One helpful consumer organization is the Medicare Rights Center, which has a national helpline at secondly, you may not realize that who you choose for your routine health care, such as an X-ray or blood test, can reduce your costs. Generally, you pay a portion of every medical treatment you receive. So taking a few additional steps to investigate your options may help you save a significant amount of money.
Most people are aware of the sizable cost difference when they go to an urgent care center instead of an emergency room — if it’s not a true life-or-death emergency. That choice alone can save you hundreds of dollars. But there are additional steps you can take, so be aware, ask questions and remember that advocating for your health can also benefit your wallet.