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Medicare Open Enrollment: A 5-Point Checklist

The annual window for making changes to your Medicare health coverage has now opened. It's time to see if your plan is still right for you.

Managing retirement money often includes managing health care costs. If you’re on Medicare, we suggest you take a look at those costs: from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 you can enroll* or make changes to your plans.

 It’s important to be aware of the time limitation so that you don’t miss your opportunity and have to wait until next year to make any changes. It’s also important to consider your plans carefully. This Medicare open enrollment checklist can help you to do just that.

1. Review your plan notices.

Read all notices from your Medicare plan about changes for next year, especially the annual notice of change letter. At a minimum, we suggest you make sure your current or anticipated prescription drugs are covered, and your current or anticipated doctors are still in the network. Don't take for granted that they are. Otherwise you could be in a position of having to pay these bills out of pocket.

2. Think about what matters most to you right now.

Medicare health and drug plans change each year, and so can your health needs. Do you need a primary care doctor? Does your network include the specialist you want for an upcoming surgery? Does your current plan cover your medications? Does another plan offer the same value at lower costs? We suggest you consider these and similar needs in detail before making decisions.

3. Find out if you qualify for help paying for Medicare.

Medicare Parts A and B have deductibles, coinsurance, co-payments and Medicare prescription drug coverage costs. Luckily, there are some government programs that can assist with costs. You can go to medicare.gov to learn if you qualify for help with Medicare or to find information about your State Health Insurance Assistance Program.

4. Shop for plans that meet your needs and fit your budget.

Medicare.gov has a useful tool called the Medicare Plan Finder that lists plans offered in your area. You can use it to help compare plans.

5. Check your plan's rating before you enroll.

The Medicare Plan Finder also lists star ratings for Medicare health and prescription drug plans. You can use these ratings to help compare the quality of any health care drug plans that you are considering.

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A few more things to know: If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch back to original Medicare if that better suits your needs. You can also decide to do nothing if you believe your current coverage is still the best choice, but remember to consider any changes to your plan. Most of all, make sure to review your plan in order to help make the best choice for your health, and your money.

*If you’re not on Medicare yet and plan to enroll soon, there’s a seven-month Initial Enrollment Period that begins three months before the month you turn 65, includes the month of your 65th birthday, and ends three months after the month you turn 65.

About the Author

Ken Moraif, CFP®

CEO and Senior Adviser, Retirement Planners of America

Ken Moraif, CFP, is CEO and senior adviser at Retirement Planners of America, a Dallas-based wealth management and investment firm with over $4.3 billion in AUM and serving over 8,000 households (as of May 2019). He is also the host of the radio show "Money Matters with Ken Moraif," which has offered listeners retirement, investing and personal finance advice since 1996.

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