5 things to know about Medicare Open Enrollment

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If you're already enrolled in Medicare or are just starting to ponder your options, there is a lot to consider. Some seniors make the mistake of thinking that since they have Medicare, everything is covered. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

Here are the top 5 things you need to know to avoid unexpected out-of-pocket expenses you thought Uncle Sam was going to pay.

1. Medicare - from A to D

Medicare comes in many pieces. How many or few you need depends on you.

  • Original Medicare comes in 2 forms: Part A, hospital insurance; and Part B, medical insurance.
  • Need prescription coverage? That's Part D.
  • Medicare Advantage (Part C, or MA) often combines these 3 as an option separate from Original Medicare.

Part A is free if you've paid payroll taxes for at least 10 years. Part B requires you to pay premiums, copays, and other service charges similar to private insurance companies. Original Medicare (Parts A and B) is provided by the federal government.

You can opt out of Part A or B when you get your Medicare card so that you're not paying for more than you need. Part D can be purchased as a stand-alone option. Part C and Part D are only available through private insurance companies, such as Humana.

2. Medicare isn't free

And it doesn't cover 100% of your expenses. You could end up paying more than you expect—even with Original Medicare. It pays to do the math. Review your expenses from last year so you can anticipate what your future needs may be.

Also, consider the importance of keeping your current doctors and pharmacy, and what your out-of-pocket costs are for deductibles, copays, and prescriptions.

An unexpected hospital visit, name-brand drug, or out-of-network provider could blow your budget. Compare the coverage and cost options from the government and private insurers, like Humana, to make sure you're getting the best deal.

3. Open Enrollment occurs every year from October 15 to December 7

Don't get so wrapped up in the holiday season that you neglect to review your Medicare options. Knowing when to enroll can be tricky.

You first become eligible at age 65, but your Initial Enrollment Period actually begins 3 months before your birth month and continues through 3 months after. Because there is a delay from enrollment to activation, we suggest you enroll during the 3 month period before your birthday to avoid a gap in your coverage.

After that, you are only able to enroll once a year: during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP).

AEP allows seniors to make changes to current selections; purchase additional coverage, such as Medicare Advantage (Part C) or Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D); or disenroll from the program. AEP is October 15 to December 7.

4. What if you pick the wrong option?

Maybe you did your homework or you simply flipped a coin—either way, you don't like your choices. Fortunately, there's hope in the new year.

From January 1 to February 14 there is a Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, which allows you to switch to Original Medicare and/or select a Part D option for prescription coverage.

5. Humana can help

With all the options and information available, things can get confusing. But don't worry—we're here to help make sense of it all. At Humana, we want to help ensure your golden years are healthy, happy and fulfilling. While you can't predict every medical expense you may incur, you can make an informed decision on coverage—and we can help.

You can also contact Medicare directly for more information by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY: 1-877-486-2048) 24 hours a day, or by visiting their website, www.medicare.govopens in new window.

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