Medicare open enrollment ends today

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Medicare open enrollment runs Oct. 15 - Dec. 7, 2017. Avoid these mistakes: Don't assume your coverage is not changing. Always comparison shop for better deals. Don't assume your health will not change - unplanned medical events happen!

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Medicare open enrollment ends today, and a report by Kaiser Health Foundation indicates that most of the 2.3 million Ohioans covered by the federal health insurance program likely signed up for the same coverage they have this year.

Enrollees had from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 to choose whether they wanted an original Medicare plan, which is managed by the federal government, or one of the Medicare Advantage plans, which are managed by commercial insurance companies. Most people with original Medicare also purchase a prescription drug plan.

Typically those with original Medicare also buy supplemental coverage to cover additional benefits like prescription drugs.

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Don Mackos, president of RetireMedIQ, said this enrollment season he had an increase in clients who came to his benefits brokerage to talk about different cost issues, such as their premium rising for their prescription drug plan or supplemental plan.

“We saw a far greater number of people that had original Medicare and they wanted an advantage plan,” Mackos said.

More people also had questions about what plans had extra benefits such as transportation or better dental coverage, he said.

Costs and coverage can be significantly impacted by which plan a beneficiary chooses. The U.S. Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services encourages beneficiaries to shop around each enrollment season in case the best option has changed.

However, an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation of the open enrollment periods between 2007 and 2016, found 8% of Medicare Advantage enrollees and 10% of prescription drug plan enrollees voluntarily switched to another plan during open enrollment.

There are an average of 28 Medicare Advantage plans and 28 stand-alone Part D plans available to beneficiaries in 2020. Beneficiaries have dozens of plan options from which to choose. The researchers with the foundation stated that relatively low rates of plan switching during the open enrollment period could indicate that beneficiaries are generally satisfied with their current plans and are not motivated to switch. Or they may be choosing to remain in their plans after shopping around.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Medicare open enrollment starts today

Or it could be that people stay with their existing plans because it is too complicated to compare new options. Low switching rates find the process of comparing plans too challenging, are unaware of the open enrollment period, or have limited confidence in their ability to choose a better plan, the Kaiser researchers wrote in their analysis, published Dec. 2. Both Medicare Advantage and stand-alone drug plans can vary significantly in terms of premiums, deductibles, cost sharing, provider and/or pharmacy networks, and drugs covered, among other plan features.

“Comparing all of these factors simultaneously is the best way to maximize value and lower costs, but it is also time consuming and challenging, especially for beneficiaries with cognitive impairments or serious health needs,” the report stated.