Medicare Enrollment Opens Oct. 15 – Are you ready?

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Are you confused by the prospect of entering Medicare, or changing your current plan? You’re not alone. There are many coverage options for older adults, and navigating the best path for yourself or your loved one can be very difficult. If you’re turning 65 or older, or suffering from qualifying disabilities, it’s time to learn more.

Enrollment will be open from October 15 through December 7 for 2017. Whether or not you’re making changes, it’s imperative to review and explore your options for coverage. You may even find that a new plan offers more for your growing needs.

During enrollment, you can switch from an original Medicare plan to a Medicare Advantage Plan – or switch back if you didn’t need an Advantage Plan – switch from one plan to another, enroll in Medicare Part D (a prescription drug plan), or make changes to your current Plan D plan. You can also review your private supplemental insurance (Medigap), if need be.

The best approach to Medicare enrollment involves research and patience. It’s essential you take the time to learn which plan is right for you. Many seniors simply stick to the plan they’ve had for years to avoid the hassle, which can be very detrimental. Plans even occasionally change from year to year, so you need to know what you’re signing up for.

To understand Medicare, understand it has four parts. Part A is hospital insurance, and Part B includes doctor and outpatient services and preventative care. Part D can be added on specifically for prescription drug coverage.

Part C is unique and called Medicare Advantage, and it offers many additional benefits. Part C is an optional but very popular choice because it is offered by a private company (who has contracted with Medicare­) to offer you both your Plan A and B benefits. Though it often limits you to in-provider organizations, it generally has a higher annual spending limit and is similar to the private insurance you may have had before retirement. To be eligible, you must already be enrolled in Parts A and B, and you must live in your selected plan’s service area. If a Medicare Advantage Plan is not suitable for your individual needs, and comes with a higher premium than a regular plan, it’s best to stick to an original Medicare plan.

If your health and needs remain the same, your plan coverage, benefits and premiums may still change from year to year so be sure to check. Most Medicare premiums are expected to increase for next year. It’s important to know the costs and specifics of your chosen plan before enrolling. Remember, Medicare only covers about half of its enrollee’s health coverage so be sure you’re not incurring any unnecessary expenses.

If you do explore all your options and decide not to make any changes, you don’t have to take any action during the enrollment period. Again, don’t let that idea keep you from doing your research, or you could be caught off guard by a change in your policy’s benefits or cost.

Specific information about next year’s plans will be available to the public, beginning in October. All changes to your Medicare plans will take effect on January 1, 2017.

For more information, visit the Medicare’s site at www.medicare.gov.

This information is provided by CarePatrol of Baltimore, a senior housing placement agency that serves the Baltimore city and county areas. If you or your loved ones needs to find a new home, consider talking to a CarePatrol housing placement specialist. They will sit down with you, assess your needs and financial situation, and offer the best options they can find. They are also available for tours and guidance during your final search. You can contact a specialist at (410) 844-0800 or [email protected] Also find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CarePatrolBaltimore.

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