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Medicare annual enrollment: Time to upgrade your plan

By The Health News Team | October 4, 2023
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If you are a Medicare enrollee, you've likely received dozens of pieces of mail and seen TV commercials about the Medicare annual enrollment period. It’s important to understand what this important time period is and the options available to you, especially if your health care provider has changed the plans they currently accept.

Each year, Medicare offers the annual enrollment period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 as an opportunity to review your coverage and make changes to better suit your needs. Any changes made during this time become effective Jan. 1 of the following year.

There are several reasons you may want to review and change your plan. These include:

  • Changes in the prescription drugs you take

  • Changes in your income

  • You’re looking for more or better medical or ancillary services

  • You’d like to save money

  • You want to change your doctor or health care organization

Perhaps your current health care system is no longer accepting the Medicare Advantage plan you have, or has instituted other requirements that make it difficult for you to conform. This is yet another reason the annual enrollment period is an excellent time to review your options.

Benefits of Medicare Advantage plans

Sharp HealthCare accepts original Medicare and all Medicare supplement (sometimes called Medigap) plans. But supplement plans have a monthly premium in addition to your Part B monthly premium. You also need to choose a prescription drug plan (Part D) and pay a premium.

This means someone with this type of coverage will have three premiums to pay each month: Medicare Part B, the supplement plan premium and the prescription drug plan premium. It can really add up.

Sharp also accepts Medicare Advantage plans offered by Sharp Health Plan and UnitedHealthcare. Medicare Advantage plans have many benefits, including:

  • Prescription drug coverage (no need to purchase a separate Part D plan)

  • Vision coverage

  • Dental coverage

  • Hearing services

  • Fitness memberships

  • Worldwide emergency coverage

One of the best perks of Medicare Advantage plans is coordinated care. Your primary care doctor works in partnership with specialty doctors and you to maintain your optimal health. If you become sick, your care is coordinated by your doctors with your wishes and best interest always in mind.

Medicare Advantage plans also provide predictable costs and annual caps on hospitalizations. When enrolled with a Medicare Advantage plan, you know what your copays are for doctor visits, diagnostic services and other medical needs.

What’s more, many Medicare Advantage plans also offer a “cap” on fees you must pay annually. If you experience a challenging year with your health, your insurance plan covers everything after you reach a certain amount. This service can lessen your anxiety during difficult times.

The first step in choosing a plan

Whatever your reasons for seeking a change, a licensed Medicare specialist can discuss your options with you. These specialized agents can review your current plans, offer suggestions to improve your coverage and possibly, save you money.

Additionally, when reviewing new plans, some people find using the “stoplight method” helps make options clearer and decision-making easier. Add green dots by the services and prices you want, yellow dots by the line items you are not sure of, and red dots by the items you don’t need or want. This exercise can help you filter available plans and make your choice.

Sharp is ready to help guide you through your Medicare experience. Speak with specialists, both English and Spanish-speaking; attend a live webinar; or log on to a virtual webinar from the comfort of your home. Visit Sharp's Medicare classes and events page to learn more and register.

Learn more about Medicare health insurance at Sharp HealthCare; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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