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Toni Says: Tips to taking stress out of Medicare annual enrollment

There is not a law that says you must make a change to your Medicare
Stress is running rampant this Medicare Annual Enrollment season because of the economic times the country is experiencing.
Stress is running rampant this Medicare Annual Enrollment season because of the economic times the country is experiencing. [ Shutterstock ]
Published Oct. 5

Toni:

I read in your column about the upcoming Medicare Annual Enrollment period. I’m really confused. I am receiving so much mail that I am stressed about making the wrong decision and messing up my Medicare.

Is there a law that I have to change my Medicare? You helped my husband and me with our Medicare decision in January when my husband retired from his job of 30-plus years, and now it seems we have to do it all over again. Could you explain what we need to do? Thanks.

- Alice from Philadelphia

Toni King
Toni King [ Courtesy of Toni King ]

Hello Alice:

Stress is running rampant this Medicare Annual Enrollment season because of the economic times the country is experiencing. Many Americans are concerned that they could lose their jobs or not have enough money for retirement because of a personal health-care crisis.

Good news, Alice: There is not a law that says you must make a change to your Medicare. You do not have to change your Medicare Supplement, which the Toni Says team assisted you and your husband to enroll in. I would advise you to check your Part D plan for any significant changes. If you see a change, you can enroll in a new Medicare Part D plan to begin January 1.

Below are a few tips to simplify dealing with the Medicare Annual Enrollment or, if you are new to Medicare, to make the correct choice and personalize your Medicare just for you:

--Medicare Tip 1: Learn your Medicare ABCs and Ds. Part A is hospital coverage. Part B is medical/outpatient coverage such as doctor visits and surgery. Part C is Medicare Advantage Plans combining both Part A and B benefits and may include additional benefits such as vision and hearing and/or Medicare Part D coverage. Part D is for prescription drugs, with the famous “donut hole” coverage gap, and may be included in a Part C plan or be a stand-alone plan.

--Medicare Tip #2: Know what Original Medicare covers … and what it doesn’t. Know what your Part A deductible is, and that Part B Medicare pays 80% of approved charges while you pay 20%. And you have a once-a-year deductible with a monthly premium that depends upon your income.

--Medicare Tip #3: Keep in mind not all Medicare plans are created equal. Medicare Supplements work directly with Original Medicare, and Medicare Part C Medicare Advantage plans work differently with low or no premiums and with different out-of-pocket costs from a Medicare Supplement. Do your research especially if you have health issues and may need expensive, brand-name prescriptions.

--Medicare Tip #4: Research Medicare Part D plans at every Medicare Annual Enrollment. Plans can change the covered benefits and the drug formulary for the next year.

Medicare Tip #5: Don’t choose solely on price. Make sure there are not any hidden co-pays or other fees that will end up costing you money.

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When someone visits the Toni Says Medicare team to personalize their Medicare situation, we tell them to forget everything they know about their old employer or individual health plans because Original Medicare is different.

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Toni King is an author and columnist on Medicare and health insurance issues. She spent more than 27 years as a top sales leader in the fields. For answers to Medicare questions, email: info@tonisays.com or call 832-519-8664. You can now visit www.seniorresource.com/medicare-moments to listen to her Medicare Moments podcasts.

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