By Alessandra Malito
The open enrollment period for Original Medicare may be over, but Americans still have options until the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period – until March 31, that is.
Retirement Tip of the Week: If you’re not happy with your healthcare choices, there’s time to make adjustments with Medicare Advantage – use it to compare plans, taking into consideration your doctors, medications and preferred medical facilities.
Medicare Advantage plans are government-approved health insurance options private companies offer (some people may have also heard of Medigap, which is extra coverage private insurance companies offer to supplement Original Medicare – Medigap and Medicare Advantage are not the same, nor can a patient have both simultaneously).
The Medicare Advantage open enrollment period allows patients to make changes to their current Medicare Advantage plan, or switch to Original Medicare. Americans can’t switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage during this time, or make any changes to their Original Medicare choices. The only time to alter Original Medicare coverage would be during open enrollment for Original Medicare, or during a special enrollment period, such as getting married or adopting a child.
There are a few factors to consider when making changes to your plan, said Ari Parker, head Medicare adviser and co-founder of Chapter , a company that specializes in maximizing Medicare coverage. The first: cost preference, he said. Compare plans as well as the costs for coverage, in terms of copays and premiums.
Check out MarketWatch’s column ‘Retirement Hacks’ for actionable advice for your own retirement savings journey
Plans differ in many other ways, however. Patients should look to see that their doctors are in network, the prescription drugs covered, the proximity to preferred medical institutions and if there are any services that apply to specific health needs.
MedicareAdvantage.com and Medicare.gov allow visitors to find and compare plans in their areas. AARP also offers guidance on choosing the right plan. There are advisers available, such as through Chapter to help people find the right options for them, or for non-personalized advice, representatives from State Health Insurance Assistance programs (known as SHIP ) can explain benefits under various plans.