Jan 102013

This year, the open enrollment period for Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Coverage plans (Medicare Part D) was set for October 15 to December 7 for the 2013 year.   Unfortunately, that means that the current year has closed. Only seniors reaching the age of 65 will be able to apply prior to this fall, when the open enrollment period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare D opens for 2014.

If you are an individual who will be turning 65, or are currently in have Medicare Part B, you may wish to consider a Medicare Advantage plan. These plans provide broader coverage than basic Medicare for a flat montly fee, which may be a worthwhile consideration for seniors who  are concerned about Medicare Part B coinsurance costs. These plans provide more comprehensive doctor bill coverage — albeit with a higher monthly premium.  Usually patients have a lower per-visit copay, and do not have to worry about a percent coinsurance or deductible.  Many Medicare Advantage patients take comfort in the fact that they have close ended costs for their healthcare needs.

During open enrollment, seniors can review plans from major insurers like Humana, Cigna, United Healthcare (AARP), Mutual of Omaha, Blue Cross Blue Shield and many others. These plans will have a variety of offered monthly premiums.  Seniors who enroll in these networks will have to utilize the network of physicians and providers that each plan offers.

Additionally, many seniors will find that a plurality of Medicare Advantage plans will also offer a Medicare Part D drug coverage plan within the medical plan. The two plans will be offered in the same “wrapper” and allow the patient the convenience of having a plan from a single company.  There will be less confusion for these patients. Many times a Medicare Part D plan will be separate of other medical insurance, requiring multiple companies and multiple cards. Using a Medicare Advantage plan with a Part D plan simplifies this, and most  patients will find that they have a single card that they can use both at the hospital, their doctor’s office, and the pharmacy.

Medicare Advantage is not for all patients, however.  Patients who are more concerned about choice and can afford it may wish to consider a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) policy as an alternative. These plans allow patients to choose their healthcare providers.  This is important to many patients, as some may have a long relationship with their doctor, and may not wish to change when they reach Medicare eligibility.