published on December 3, 2021 - 12:29 PM
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At this time of year, current Medicare beneficiaries have the option to make changes in their coverage. The so-called Medicare Open Enrollment period runs from October 15 to December 7. If you’re enrolled in Medicare, this is an opportunity for you to make adjustments to your plan that will take effect on January 1, 2022.

With health care a significant cost concern throughout retirement, it can make a difference if you are able to improve upon your current coverage. Here are five important steps to follow during open enrollment season.

#1 – Assess your existing coverage

Think about the coverage you have today and whether you are satisfied with it. Pay attention to the premiums your plan will charge for 2022 (that should have been disclosed to you by the end of September). Keep in mind that costs for Medicare Part B and Part D prescription drug plans will increase as well next year. Know that you don’t have to settle for your existing plan, but you also want to carefully weigh your options before any changes are made.

#2 – Know what is available to you

If you are interested in making changes, be sure you know how much flexibility is available to you. If you currently have coverage with a Medicare Advantage plan and want to consider switching to a different Advantage plan, you have the flexibility to do so. If you want to switch from original Medicare (Parts A and B) and a supplemental plan (Medigap) to Medicare Advantage, you can do that as well. If you want to drop your Medicare Advantage coverage and enroll in original Medicare, you may have a gap that will be more difficult to fill. Moving to another Medigap policy to supplement your original Medicare coverage at this point may require a health assessment to determine eligibility and rates. Such a move would also require a standalone Part D prescription drug plan if you so desire.

#3 – Determine if your needs in 2022 will change

Circumstances for you could change in 2022, though some of what you may need is unknowable today. You may suddenly encounter a need for more medical coverage or some form of specialized care. You may already have ideas on specific treatments you plan to pursue in the coming year. If so, make sure you’ve chosen the right kind of coverage to help meet those expenses. If your prescription drug needs may change in the coming year, you’ll want to assess how your current Part D coverage stacks up against other plans as it relates to your specific prescription needs.

#4 – Don’t be afraid to seek help

If you want help in the process, look to financial professionals who specialize in health insurance or, more specifically, Medicare plans, to guide you. This is a complex topic with a wide range of options for regular and supplemental coverage as well as prescription drug coverage. Check with your key medical providers to make sure a different plan you are considering will still provide coverage for their services.

#5 – Get the ball rolling

You have until December 7 to make changes, but it’s best to start now. Give yourself enough time to assess your current coverage and review other options that are available to you. Be sure to list out questions you might have about your existing coverage and any new policies you consider. Don’t be afraid to ask current and potential future providers direct questions you may have about the coverage they provide.

Nicolas Allen, CFP® is a Private Wealth Advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in Fresno, CA. He specializes in fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for 13 years. To contact him, consider, (559) 490-7030 option 2, or 7433 N. First Street, Suite 102 Fresno, CA 93720.

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