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Medicare Annual Enrollment Period 2021

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period 2021

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), sometimes called Medicare Open Enrollment or the Medicare Annual Election Period, starts on October 15.

If you’re eligible for Medicare, you’ll probably receive lots of information over the next few weeks and throughout AEP. And this information can be overwhelming.

But we’re here to help you with this useful Medicare guide. So let’s dive into the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, what it is, how to prepare, and what you can do during AEP.

Then, we’ll cover some tips for choosing the right Medicare plan for your healthcare needs.

What is the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period?

The Medicare Annual Enrollment period happens each year from October 15 to December 7.

During this time period, you have the option to make changes to your Medicare coverage. Your new coverage would then take effect January 1.

But if you’re satisfied with your current Medicare coverage, you don’t have to take any action during Medicare AEP. There are no penalties involved if you do nothing.

Medicare plan details can change annually, though, so it’s wise to review your Medicare coverage each year. We’ll cover more on this shortly.

What’s the Difference Between Medicare AEP and the Medicare General Enrollment Period?

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period is sometimes confused with the Medicare General Enrollment period, which is January 1 to March 31 each year. It’s important to understand the differences between the two enrollment periods.

The Medicare General Enrollment Period is for Medicare beneficiaries who didn’t sign up for Medicare Part A) or Part B when they first became eligible and aren’t eligible for a Medicare Part B special enrollment period. The AEP, however, is for beneficiaries who are already enrolled in Medicare and want to change their Medicare coverage.

What Changes Can I Make During the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period?

The first thing to know is that you cannot use the Medicare Annual Election Period to enroll in Medicare Part A or Part B for the first time.

But if you’re enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B and you’d like to change your Medicare coverage, here are some things you can do during the Medicare Annual Election Period:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
  • Disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare.
  • Change from one prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D) to another.
  • Enroll in a prescription drug plan.
  • Cancel your prescription drug coverage.

5 Tips to Prepare for the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

There are many Medicare insurance carriers and plan options, but there are several steps you can take to be a savvy shopper and choose the right plan for your unique needs.

1. Mark Your Calendar

This may seem like an obvious tip, but it’s worth mentioning: Mark your calendar for October 15 through December 7 if you’d like to make a change to your Medicare plan.

You might even set aside a few hours to research and compare Medicare Advantage plans and Prescription Drug plans ahead of October 15. These plans announce their benefits for the next year starting on October 1.

Writing down these Medicare AEP dates and to-dos will help you to commit to these priorities.

2. Review Your Medicare Annual Notice of Change

You’ll receive lots of information over the next month or so, so if you’re currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan, the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) is one piece of mail you’ll want to read.

Your Medicare plan will mail your Annual Notice of Change letter to you by September 30. The ANOC letter will inform you of most changes to your Medicare health plan, including coverage and benefits that will take effect on January 1, 2022.

Each year, your Medicare health plan sets the amounts it will charge you for premiums, deductibles and other services. Medicare doesn’t set these rates - but your insurance company does. With this in mind, the amounts you pay could change each year.

While evaluating your current Medicare plan, you may want to ask yourself questions like:

  • Did the plan cover the services I needed?
  • Did I use out-of-network providers?
  • Did I spend more out of pocket than I originally anticipated?
  • Has something changed with my health (new diagnosis, new prescriptions, etc.)?

The ANOC will also provide a side-by-side comparison of your current plan and next year’s plan benefits, costs and other changes (if any).

Moral of the story: Don’t toss this piece of mail aside. Always review your ANOC to ensure your plan continues to meet your needs on an annual basis. And if you don’t receive your ANOC by September 30, contact your Medicare insurance company.

3. Make A List of What’s Important To Your Health

Keeping a list of what’s important to your health is an invaluable way to prepare for the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.

Start by writing down all of your doctors, preferred health care facilities and hospitals, and prescription drugs, if you take any.

We also recommend making a list of value-added benefits that may fit your health, lifestyle and budget.

For example, you may be someone who likes to keep active and have social interaction. So a fitness program like SilverSneakers, which gives you access to a network of gyms and other programs, might be a good fit for you. A Medicare Advantage plan may provide these types of fitness or wellness programs.

Another thing to consider is whether or not you have an elective surgery planned for 2022. If so, you’ll want to check your hospital-specific benefits under your current Medicare Advantage plan.

4. Check Your Plan’s Drug Formulary

Your Medicare plan’s drug formulary will not be included in your Annual Notice of Change, so be sure you call your insurance customer service representative to see if your prescription drugs will be covered for the 2022 plan year.

If your prescription drugs aren’t covered, it’s wise to use the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period to find a plan that does cover them.

5. Talk To Your Doctor

Another “Medicare must-do” is to make sure all of your doctors and healthcare facilities will remain in network with your current Medicare plan. If they aren’t, you may want to take advantage of the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.

So be sure to ask your doctor if he or she plans on changing health plan affiliations over the next year.

What Are The Benefits of A Medicare Advantage Plan?

Understanding your Medicare plan options - starting with a Medicare Advantage plan - is a smart first step to take because you can switch, enroll into or disenroll from Medicare Advantage plans during AEP.

Medicare Advantage plans, otherwise known as “Medicare Part C” or “MA Plans,” bundle Original Medicare (Parts A and B) services into one plan. While Original Medicare offers you a number of benefits, it may not cover health and medical services you might need.

Medicare Advantage plans might be an attractive option because some plans include extra benefits that could save you money. These benefits may include:

  • $0 monthly plan premiums
  • Prescription drug coverage
  • Dental, vision and hearing coverage
  • Access to fitness programs
  • Rides to medical appointments
  • Help managing certain chronic conditions (congestive heart failure, COPD, diabetes)

Medicare Advantage plans may also cover a number of in-home services to keep you safe and healthy at home, especially during these uncertain times due to the coronavirus pandemic.

These benefits may include:

  • Telemedicine services (also known as telehealth)
  • Home-delivered meals
  • Home-delivered prescriptions
  • Private home aides

Another potential perk of Medicare Advantage plans is that they include annual out-of-pocket maximums, which means your costs will be capped.

But it’s important to note that Medicare Advantage plans vary by county and zip code. One way to compare Medicare Advantage plans and get Medicare quotes is through our easy-to-use quoting tool. Just enter your zip code to see Medicare Advantage plans that are available in your area.

More Medicare Options for People With Kidney Failure

One major change happening for the 2021 plan year is that people with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), also known as kidney failure, will now have the option to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates that more than 80,000 people living with ESRD will enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan by 2026 - a significant increase of 63%.

Medicare Advantage plans may provide ESRD patients with better coverage compared to Original Medicare. Many Medicare Advantage plans include access to coordinated care, which helps ensure all your doctors are on the same page regarding your treatment.

What Are Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plans?

Medicare beneficiaries also have access to Medicare Advantage plans designed for unique needs. These are called Special Needs Plans (SNPs). Like other types of Medicare Advantage plans, SNPs vary based on location.

You may be able to switch to a Special Needs Plan during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period if one of these situations apply:

  • You’ve been diagnosed with a serious medical condition by a doctor. There are SNPs for certain chronic conditions, such as kidney and heart failure, diabetes and dementia. Services are tailored to the specific condition the plan covers.
  • You need or have received skilled nursing care for at least 90 days at your home or at an institution, such as a nursing home or long-term care facility.
  • You qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. Medicaid eligibility is based on your income and assets. If you qualify, Medicaid will pay most of the costs for your Medicare Special Needs Plan.

Special Needs Plans include all the same benefits as regular Medicare Advantage plans, plus some expanded coverage.

For example, all Special Needs Plans must include prescription drug coverage, which is usually tailored to the specific condition the plan covers. Although most regular Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drugs, some do not.

Some SNPs also provide a care coordinator to help you stay on track with your doctor appointments and treatment plan.

What If My Income Has Changed in 2021?

The coronavirus crisis has affected the financial well-being of many Americans, including those on Medicare. If you’ve experienced a decrease to your income or assets, the Medicare AEP 2020 season is a great time to switch to a more affordable plan.

If you have limited income, you might qualify for extra savings on Medicare costs through these programs:

  • Medicare Savings Programs. These programs help pay for some of your Medicare Part A and Part B out-of-pocket costs, such as copays, deductibles and premiums. Most programs are for Medicare beneficiaries who also qualify for Medicaid. And as mentioned, Medicaid covers the majority of your costs when you join a Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan. You can check if you qualify through your local Medicaid office.
  • Medicare Extra Help. Extra Help reduces your Medicare prescription drug plan costs. You should contact Social Security to check your eligibility for Extra Help if you have an existing Medicare drug plan or you join one during AEP.

How To Enroll During the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

To enroll in an eligible plan during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, you can visit Medicare plan comparison websites like healthinsurance.com or Medicare.gov. Or, you might prefer to talk to a licensed insurance agent to get help enrolling in Medicare.

Whatever option you choose, be sure to have 3 items handy before you enroll in a plan or make changes to your current plan during AEP:

  • Your Medicare card
  • Your list of doctors, prescriptions and what is important to your health
  • Pen and paper to take notes

More on Medicare Eligibility

Medicare is a federal health insurance program developed in 1965. To be eligible for Medicare you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • You are age 65 or older
  • You are under age 65, disabled, and have been receiving Social Security disability benefits for at least 24 months.
  • You have End Stage Renal Disease or Lou Gehrig’s Disease (also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS).

You can visit Medicare.gov to see if you’re eligible for Medicare and calculate your estimated premiums for certain plans.

How To Find A Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan

You don’t have to go it alone when choosing a Medicare Advantage plan or Prescription Drug Plan. We’re here to help you navigate the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period through a number of ways, including:

You can also call 800-620-4519 to speak to a licensed insurance agent about your options.

You can also read through some of our articles to learn more about Medicare.

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As we age, we grow more vulnerable to chronic and seasonal illnesses. And many times these illnesses can hit hard and fast, sometimes making it difficult to recover. But taking preventative measures against illnesses, like getting vaccines, is a safe course of action. To help accomplish this, Medicare beneficiaries have access to comprehensive benefits for routine vaccinations. In this guide to Medicare vaccine coverage, we’ll review how vaccines are covered by Original Medicare and the various private Medicare insurance plans on the market. The Importance Of Vaccines For Adults Over 65 It’s much easier to avoid getting sick with some illnesses than it is to treat, recover or survive them. This is especially true for those ages 65 and up: Illnesses such as the flu, pneumonia, and COVID-19 can take a heavy toll on this population. And since most of these illnesses are seasonal by nature, they’re perfect candidates for vaccines. In fact, the CDC recommends that adults ages 65 and over have annual vaccination against the flu. Studies have shown that seniors who are vaccinated are more likely to avoid seasonal illnesses and have fewer severe symptoms, including a decreased chance of: Doctor’s visits Hospitalizations Death However, there are non-seasonal vaccinations for adults over age 65. These may include: Varicella / Shingles Tdap Pneumococcal Hepatitis A and B Quick Medicare Tip: Be sure to check with your doctor for advice on which vaccines to get and how frequently you should receive them. This is especially important because of the potential for interactions with existing health conditions. What Vaccines Does Medicare Cover? Medicare vaccination coverage depends on how the specific vaccines are categorized. In other words, vaccines can be covered by Medicare Part B. But in other cases, vaccines are covered by Medicare Part D drug plans. Medicare Part B Vaccine Coverage Medicare Part B covers outpatient medical care, broken down into two groups of services: Medically necessary services, and Preventative services You’ll use Part B for routine healthcare like doctor’s visits and lab work. Unlike Part A of Original Medicare, you’ll probably have to pay a monthly premium to have Part B coverage. Medicare Part B covers vaccinations under the preventive services category. And many recommended elderly immunizations are included in Medicare Part B vaccine coverage. The following vaccines are among the most important. Flu Vaccines Medicare Part B covers influenza vaccinations. Medicare will cover one flu shot per person, per flu season. And you will pay nothing as long as you receive your flu shot from a doctor or other qualified health care worker who accepts Medicare “assignment.” This means that they agree to accept Medicare’s payment as payment in full. Most doctors and health care practitioners take Medicare Assignment. Hepatitis B Shots Medicare Part B vaccine coverage for the Hepatitis B vaccine is a little more complicated. Part B will cover it, but only if you’re at moderate or high risk. You’re considered to have medium or high risk if any of these apply to you: You have hemophilia You have End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) You have diabetes You live with someone who has Hepatitis B You’re a healthcare worker and frequently exposed to bodily fluids If you meet these criteria and receive the shot from a practitioner who accepts Medicare assignment, you’ll pay nothing. The Hepatitis B vaccine may be given as a series of two or three injections, depending on which vaccine is used. Pneumococcal Shots Medicare Part B will cover a total of two pneumococcal shots for seniors. You can get the first shot at any time, and Part B will cover the second shot as long as you receive it at least one year after your first injection. Like other instances of Medicare vaccine coverage, you’ll pay nothing out of pocket if you get the pneumococcal shots from a qualified practitioner who takes Medicare assignment. COVID-19 Vaccine As the newest and most urgently needed vaccine on the block, Medicare Part B will cover the COVID-19 vaccine. We’ll review some of the specifics of COVID-19 Medicare Part B vaccination coverage shortly. For now, COVID-19 vaccine coverage through Medicare Part B is all available for no out-of-pocket cost. Quick Medicare Tip: Need more help understanding Medicare Part B? Visit our Guide to Medicare Part B to learn how Medicare Part B coverage works. Medicare Part D Vaccine Coverage Medicare Part D is the prescription drug program for Medicare beneficiaries. Drug coverage is not available as part of the Original Medicare Fee-for-Service program. Instead, it’s offered by private insurance companies. Medicare Part D drug coverage is available as 2 types of plans: Standalone Prescription Drug Plans (PDP), and Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MAPD) Plans. Whether you get prescription drug coverage from a standalone plan or a Medicare Advantage plan, the drug coverage works the same. In both cases, your insurance company helps pay part of the cost of your medications. Unlike Medicare Part B vaccine coverage, you’ll generally have to pay some share of the cost for Medicare Part D vaccination coverage. The formal list of drugs and vaccines covered is known as a Medicare Part D formulary. The formulary is an exclusive list. Two things to know: If a drug or vaccine isn’t on the formulary, then the plan doesn’t cover it. If you receive medications of vaccines that aren’t on your plan’s formulary, then the plan won’t cover it and you’ll pay full price. That said, it’s important to make sure that you only use medications or vaccines that are on your plan’s formulary. With Part D drug coverage, you’ll usually pay a copayment or coinsurance amount for each drug or vaccination you receive. But this amount can change during the course of the calendar year as you move through the four coverage stages of Medicare Part D. Part D drug plans cover vaccines that are not covered by Medicare Part B. Generally speaking, these vaccines are considered to be less necessary than the vaccines covered by Part B. And since Medicare Part D vaccine coverage is provided by a private insurance plan, you don’t have to worry about whether your practitioner accepts Medicare assignment. As long as they accept your Part D plan, you’ll only pay the required copayment or coinsurance. Zoster (Shingles) Vaccine The shingles vaccine is covered by Medicare Part D plans. The CDC recommends that people over age 65 receive two doses of this vaccine. MMR Vaccine Private Part D drug plans cover the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine in one or two doses if you were born after 1957. Tdap Vaccine The tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine is eligible to be covered by Medicare Part D plans. The CDC recommends that you receive a new shot every ten years. A more frequent dose may be required in response to some wound care situations. Again, your vaccine costs will vary based on your individual plan formulary as part of Medicare Part D vaccine coverage. To find out how much you’ll pay, you’ll need to contact your Part D plan. If you have trouble affording medications including Part D covered vaccinations, you may be able to get assistance through the Extra Help program. Extra Help is available to people who meet certain income and asset requirements. If you qualify, you’ll pay less for your medications, and you may even get help paying for your Medicare Part D premium. You will have to recertify for Extra Help each year, but the savings are worth the effort. Quick Medicare Tip: Visit our Guide to Medicare Part D to read more about how Part D coverage works. How Does Medicare Cover The Coronavirus Vaccine? As we covered earlier, adults ages 65 and up are more vulnerable to coronavirus than other age demographics. And COVID-19 has definitely taken its toll on this age group. That’s why it’s especially key that Medicare beneficiaries take advantage of their Medicare benefits, including Medicare coverage for COVID-19. Under a provision of the 2020 CARES Act, any FDA-approved coronavirus vaccine will be covered by Medicare Part B. This includes both two-shot vaccines and single dose COVID-19 vaccines. As long as the coronavirus vaccines are FDA-approved, Medicare will cover the costs. Also, since Medicare Advantage is required to have the same coverage as Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans also cover the coronavirus vaccine. Other key things to know about Medicare coverage for coronavirus includes: Medicare covers COVID-19 testing. Medicare covers COVID-19 antibody tests. Medicare covers all medically necessary hospitalizations, including hospital stays for COVID-19 treatment and quarantine requirements. Medicare Advantage plans can’t charge deductibles, copayments and coinsurance for tests that detect or diagnose COVID-19. Medicare Advantage plans may offer additional benefits like telemedicine to keep you out of the waiting room and get non-emergency care at home. How Does Medicare Cover Travel Vaccinations? As a general rule, Medicare does not cover vaccinations for international travel. However, some Part D drug plans may offer coverage for vaccinations necessary for travelling outside the U.S. Be sure to contact your Medicare Part D plan to see if this is the case. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay out of pocket for your travel immunizations. Conclusion: Medicare and Vaccines Vaccines aren’t just for kids - they’re an important way for all ages to keep healthy and prevent illnesses. And Medicare vaccine coverage gives those ages 65 and up the support needed to get access to crucial vaccines. After all, preventing infection is much easier than treating certain illnesses, especially those that affect the respiratory system like COVID-19, flu, and pneumonia. Through Medicare Part B of Original Medicare and Medicare Part D drug plans, you can be sure that necessary vaccines will be covered at the optimal doses and frequency. But just because a vaccine is recommended for most people and covered by Medicare doesn’t mean that you should run out and get it. Some vaccines may not be suited to you based on your individual health status and history. For this reason, it’s critical that you speak with your doctor about the vaccines you should and shouldn’t receive. You can also learn more about Medicare coverage for vaccines on the benefits provided by your Medicare insurance plan. Just remember: Part D plans change their formularies every year, so the costs of Medicare Part D vaccines may change. Always review your coverage during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, and consider switching to a plan that better suits your needs if necessary. If you’d like to get help finding a Medicare plan, call 800-620-4519 to speak with one of our licensed insurance agents, or click to try our Medicare plan comparison tool to find Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plans near you. The above information does not constitute medical advice. Always consult with a medical professional regarding your health needs. If you are experiencing a health emergency, contact your local emergency health services immediately or visit the nearest emergency room or urgent care.
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Retirement should be a time of joy and freedom, but too often these years can unfortunately be tainted by battles with chronic illnesses. And one of the most common is cardiovascular disease (CVD), often called heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. That’s why February marks American Heart Month - a way to bring awareness to heart disease and help spread tips on heart disease prevention. And to help celebrate American Heart Month, we’ll review some of the facts about cardiovascular disease, along with tips to combat it. Then we’ll dive into how your Medicare coverage can help you prevent, treat or manage cardiovascular diseases. What Is Heart Disease? Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease CVD is a broad term for several different medical conditions. But generally speaking, heart disease is an illness that affects the heart or circulatory system. The illnesses that fall under the heart disease category include: Coronary artery disease (CAD) Heart rhythm problems Congenital heart disease Infections of the heart tissue Heart valve disease Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Many of the biggest risk factors of cardiovascular disease are lifestyle related. And while there’s a general assumption that these factors are the sole cause, many people are actually born with heart disease. It can be congenital and hereditary. But those with lifestyle risk factors have control over heart disease prevention. The main risk factors and causes of heart disease include: Obesity High cholesterol Diabetes Smoking High blood pressure And these causes of heart disease can be directly tied to such behaviors as: Poor diet Poor physical activity Too much alcohol Tobacco use Genetics or heredity Simply put, the lifestyle habits (good or bad) that we form are what lead to the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Genetics and heredity may then play a role in whether or not we actually develop heart disease. 4 Tips To Prevent Cardiovascular Disease CVD As we mentioned above, the fact that so many of the risk factors for CVD are lifestyle related can be a silver lining, meaning we can make smart choices and avoid unhealthy behaviors to protect our hearts. Now let’s walk through some healthy habits to maintain good heart health. #1. Stop Smoking Quitting smoking is almost universally hailed as the biggest step to reduce your risk of heart disease. Smoking is considered the most easily avoidable lifestyle factor that leads to cardiovascular disease. So if you currently smoke, make an attempt to stop now. Quitting smoking will also save you money, making this heart disease prevention tip a no-brainer. #2. Eat Healthy Diet also plays a big role in the health of your heart. A poor diet multiplies and compounds risk factors, but a smart, healthy diet can reduce your risks and get your heart in great shape. You should always speak with your doctor about nutrition and heart healthy diet options. But generally speaking a heart healthy diet may include: Fruits and vegetables Whole grains Low-fat dairy products Skinless poultry and fish Nuts and legumes In addition to eating these nutritious foods, another suggested tip is to limit your saturated fat, sodium, and sugar intake. This type of diet fits into the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. #3. Stay Active There’s no getting around the fact that an active lifestyle is a healthy one. But you don’t have to jump right in and overdo it. In fact, gentle but steady exercises can be great way to help prevent heart disease, including: Walking 30 minutes per day Cycling Swimming The main point is to pick an activity that you enjoy. So if you have a scenic path, beach, or lake nearby, consider talking walks or riding your bike there. You should also have a backup plan for poor weather or to keep safe and healthy during COVID-19. Research home workout apps or programs on platforms like YouTube or you Smart TV. But just remember: If you over-commit to exercise and activity, you may fall off the wagon completely. Instead, start small, and add time and distance gradually. If you make it a firm part of your routine, you’ll stick to it. Again, always be sure to consult your doctor before developing an exercise or activity regimen for heart health. #4. Stay Informed About Your Cardiovascular Disease CVD Risks One of the most important heart disease prevention tips is to stay proactive and empowered about your own personal health. This is especially true if you have a family history or genetic predisposition. Here are some key strategies: Don’t miss or delay your doctor’s appointments. If recommended, make sure you get cardiovascular screenings and tests. If you’re on heart disease medications, be sure to consistently take them and follow your treatment plan. Ask questions and be proactive when it comes to your health and wellbeing. How Does Medicare Cover Cardiovascular Disease CVD? If you’re on Medicare or aging into Medicare,and cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment is important to you, you’re in luck. All aspects of the Medicare program cover heart disease related measures. This includes Medicare cardiovascular screening, treatment, and healthy lifestyle tools. Heart disease prevention and treatments are covered by: Original Medicare Part A Original Medicare Part B Medicare Part D drug plans Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap plans) In the most basic sense, Medicare will cover all the stages of cardiovascular disease, including: Annual screenings (covered by Part B) Doctor’s visits, both primary and specialists (covered by Part B) Heart condition medications (covered by Part D) Cardiovascular tests and procedures (covered by Part B) Hospitalizations (when admitted as an in-patient, covered by Part A) When you use Medicare Part B under Original Medicare, you can expect to pay: Part B deductible ($203 for 2021) Part B coinsurance (20% of the Medicare-approved charges) Part B excess charges (up to 15% of the Medicare-approved charges if you use providers who don’t agree to Medicare’s prices) When you use Part A coverage under Original Medicare, your costs may include: Part A deductible ($1,484 per benefit period) Part A coinsurance of $0 per day (after you pay the deductible) for hospital stays of up to 60 days Part A coinsurance of $371 per day for hospital stays over 60 days Medicare Cardiovascular Screenings Medicare covers cardiovascular screenings, which involves a blood test once every five years. But if your doctor orders more frequent cardiovascular screenings and tests, Medicare will cover them. However, you’ll pay your share of costs as we outlined above. Medicare Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs Medicare Part B will cover part of the costs for cardiovascular disease rehabilitation programs. These covered programs include exercise, education, and counselling designed to maintain your heart health. Note: Medicare Part B will cover these cardiac rehabilitation programs, only if any of these scenarios apply to you: You’ve had a heart attack in the last 12 months. You’ve had heart bypass surgery. You’re experiencing stable angina or chronic heart failure. You’ve had a heart of lung transplant. You’ve had a valve or artery repair or replacement. Once again, you’ll pay your standard 20% coinsurance if you use these cardiac rehab programs under Medicare Part B. Cardiac Tests Covered By Medicare Beyond standard cardiovascular disease screenings and rehabilitation programs, Medicare will cover medically necessary cardiac tests ordered by your doctors. These types of heart tests may include: Blood tests Echocardiograms (ECG) Exercise stress tests - MRI or x-rays Just as with the other services, you’ll pay 20% cost-sharing under Part B of Original Medicare. Cardiovascular Medications Most prescription drugs are not covered by Original Medicare. But you may be able to get heart and cardiovascular prescription drug coverage through a Medicare Part D plan. The 2 types of Medicare plans that offer Part D: Standalone Prescription Drug Plans (PDP) and Medicare Advantage plans that include Prescription Drugs (MAPD) It’s important to note that not all drugs are covered by all Medicare Part D drug plans. However, all Part D plans must cover at least two drugs in every therapeutic category, including heart disease or cardiovascular disease. Tip: You can use our prescription lookup tool to see if your drugs are covered under Medicare Part D. Medicare Chronic Condition / Disease Management Programs If you have more than one chronic condition, you can qualify for special disease management programs. These are also covered by Original Medicare, but you’ll still be responsible for your standard cost sharing. You may also have to pay a monthly fee to participate in these chronic care management services. Under these management programs, you’ll work with your healthcare professionals to craft a comprehensive health plan tailored to your heart condition. A chronic care management plan may include: Goal setting and health evaluations Working with all of your specialists Managing your medications Cardiovascular Disease And Private Medicare Plans So far, we’ve reviewed your coverage and costs under Original Medicare. But if you choose a private plan option like Medicare Advantage or Medigap, these plans will cover your cardiovascular health as well. If you enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan, your plan will pay part of the costs you’d normally pay out of pocket. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll likely pay small copayments - similar to what you’d pay under Original Medicare. But with Medicare Advantage, you’ll have out-of-pocket spending protection, since these plans put a cap on your annual health spending. Most Medicare Advantage plans and some Medigap plans also offer access to non-Medicare health and wellness benefits. These can include gym memberships, SilverSneakers or other health programs that can help you lower your risks of cardiovascular disease. Conclusion: Medicare & Cardiovascular Disease Coverage With lifestyle and healthy habits, you can control many of the factors that may lead to cardiovascular disease. And if you currently have heart disease, you can manage your condition with a healthy lifestyle and tests, specialists, and medications covered by Medicare. To make the most of your private Medicare coverage (Part C or Part D): Check to ensure your medications are covered by the plan you’re considering. Make sure you’ll remain in-network with your doctors and specialists. And if you want help choosing a Medicare plan, you can work with a licensed insurance agent who can help you find Medicare plans and give you free Medicare quotes (with no obligation to enroll in a plan). Just call 1-800-620-4519 to speak with one of our licensed insurance agents, or use our Medicare plan comparison tool to find Medicare plans in your area. Note: This article is for general education purposes and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. Always seek the guidance of your physician or a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.
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What Is Medicare Advantage And How Does It Work? The popularity of Medicare Advantage plans is growing at a rapid pace. In 2020, more than 36% of all Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in Medicare Advantage health care plans. Whether you’re already in a Medicare Advantage plan, you’re curious about them, or you’ve never heard of them, this Medicare Advantage guide is for you. In this in-depth Medicare Advantage guide, we’ll provide a Medicare Advantage overview that will answer your frequently asked Medicare questions and cover the following topics: What is Medicare Advantage and who qualifies for it The different types of Medicare Advantage plans and how they work The difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage What Medicare Advantage plans cover Who should consider getting Medicare Advantage How much Medicare Advantage costs Medicare Advantage and special scenarios Medicare Advantage plan ratings When to enroll in Medicare Advantage How to enroll in Medicare Advantage What Is Medicare Advantage? Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C, is an alternative to Original Medicare. The Medicare Advantage program is a way for beneficiaries to access their benefits and rights under Original Medicare, but through a private insurance company instead of the Federal Government. A Medicare Advantage plan is a contract between a private insurance company and the Medicare program. By law, every Medicare Advantage plan must cover everything covered by Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B). This means that if you choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can be confident that you’ll receive all the benefits you’re entitled to under Original Medicare. Who Qualifies For Medicare Advantage? To qualify for Medicare Advantage, you must be enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B. You also must continue to pay your Part B premium in order to keep your Medicare Advantage coverage. There are no age restrictions for Medicare Advantage plans. If you’re enrolled in Part A and B before age 65 due to a disability or chronic condition, you’re still eligible for Medicare Advantage coverage. How Do Medicare Advantage Plans Work? Medicare Advantage health care plans work like the employer-sponsored health insurance plans you may be used to from your previous or current job. Medicare Advantage plans provide comprehensive coverage, and you usually need to stay in-network to receive care. You’ll typically have some out-of-pocket expenses when you receive services and procedures under your Medicare Advantage policy. These costs typically come in the form of copayments or coinsurance that you’ll pay to your provider when you receive care. An important point to remember is that all Medicare Advantage plans have an annual out-of-pocket (OOP) maximum that limits the total amount you can spend in any year. But you do not have an OOP with Original Medicare. What Types Of Medicare Advantage Plans Are Available? There are 6 types of Medicare Advantage plans, including: Medicare Advantage HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) Medicare Advantage PPOs (Preferred Provider Organizations) Medicare Advantage PFFS (Private Fee-For-Service Plans) Medicare Advantage SNP (Special Needs Plans) Medicare Advantage HMO-POS (HMO Point-Of-Service Plans) Medicare Medical Savings Plans (MSPs) In this Medicare Advantage guide, we’ll focus on Medicare Advantage PPO plans and Medicare Advantage HMO since they’re the most common types of MA plans. The Difference Between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage The primary difference between these programs is that Medicare Advantage is an alternative to Original Medicare. When you join a Medicare Part C plan, you no longer receive your Medicare benefits through Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans are offered and administered by private insurance companies. But these private insurance companies must comply with many rules and regulations set by the Medicare program. Pros And Cons Of Medicare Advantage Plans vs. Original Medicare Medicare Part C plans have many advantages when compared to Original Medicare. The 3 biggest pros of Medicare Advantage plans are: Annual Out-of-Pocket Maximum spending cap Availability of prescription drug coverage* Extra benefits for things not covered by Original Medicare *Note: Some MA plans are available without prescription drugs. These additional benefits from Part C make Medicare Advantage a more complete coverage option than Original Medicare. MA plans can have their drawbacks in comparison to Original Medicare, depending on your healthcare needs. The 3 biggest pros of Original Medicare are: #1. You can see any doctor or go to any facility anywhere in the country, as long as they accept Medicare. #2. There are no networks. Most Medicare Advantage plans have some kind of network restrictions. #3. You don’t need referrals to see specialists. With some Medicare Advantage health care plans, such as HMOs and Special Needs Plans, you usually need referrals from your primary care physician to visit a specialist. What Does Medicare Advantage Cover? Medicare Advantage plans provide coverage that matches Original Medicare Parts A and B. Generally speaking, your Medicare Advantage plan will cover the same service or procedure as Original Medicare. But there is one exception to this rule, which we’ll cover below. Medicare Advantage plans cover the following services. Medicare Part A Services Medicare Part A covers services that take place in healthcare facilities or institutions like: Inpatient hospital stays Skilled nursing services (not room and board) Hospice care In-home care Note: Hospice care is usually not covered by Medicare Advantage plans. Instead, hospice care is covered under Original Medicare, even if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. However, a new test program in 2021 will explore Medicare Advantage plans providing hospice benefits. Medicare Part B Services Medicare Part B services and procedures are considered more routine and non-emergency in nature than Part A. Common Medicare Part B services include: Doctor’s visits, including specialists Physical and occupational therapy Lab and diagnostic testing services like blood work and x-rays Durable medical equipment Mental health services Ambulance services Some cancer treatments, including chemotherapy As mentioned, Medicare Advantage plans cover all of these services with the exception of hospice care. Medicare Advantage And Prescription Drugs Most Medicare Advantage plans offer prescription drug coverage. These plans are also known as Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plans (MAPDs), and they include Medicare Part D. Medicare Advantage Extra Benefits When considering Medicare Advantage pros and cons, it’s essential to take extra benefits that Medicare Advantage could offer to you. Many of these benefits are not provided through Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage benefits may include: Fitness programs: SilverSneakers, gym memberships, and fitness trackers. Vision care: Eye exams, contact lenses, and sometimes eyeglass frames. Hearing care: Exams and often discounted hearing aids. Dental coverage: Some plans have basic dental benefits built in, others offer dental coverage for an extra premium. Transportation: Rides to and from medical appointments. Meal Deliveries: For qualified people returning home from the hospital or skilled nursing facility Telemedicine services and virtual healthcare. Note: Medicare Part C plans have the ability to choose which, if any, extra benefits to offer. These insurance companies may also make changes to their Medicare benefits and offerings each year. Who Is Medicare Advantage Good For? You should consider enrolling in Medicare Advantage if: You want to put a cap on your total out-of-pocket spending under Original Medicare. You want prescription drug coverage without paying for a separate Part D drug plan. You need some of the extra benefits (vision, hearing, private home aides) that come with many Medicare Part C plans. You don’t want to pay for Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans. You don’t mind using a network of doctors and facilities. You don’t mind needing referrals to see specialists. You don’t mind paying small copays each time you see a doctor. How Much Does Medicare Advantage Cost? Medicare Advantage plans have several costs associated with them. Before we dive into each cost, it’s important to remember that you always have to pay your Part B premium in order to have Medicare Advantage. Now, some Medicare Advantage plans offer a benefit that covers part, or all, of your Part B premium. But check the plan benefits closely to see if this is offered by a specific Medicare Advantage plan. Beyond this Part B premium, you might face the following Medicare Advantage plan costs: Monthly premium Annual deductible Copayment Coinsurance You might have a monthly premium for your Medicare Advantage plan, but these premiums tend to be low. For example, the average Medicare Advantage premium was $23.63 per month in 2020. However, many Medicare Advantage plans do not have a monthly premium. In 2020, 60% of people enrolled in Medicare Advantage didn’t pay a monthly premium. Some Medicare Part C plans have an annual deductible, but again, many do not. If your plan does have an annual deductible, this means you’ll have to pay a certain amount before the plan begins paying benefits. Note that there may be separate deductibles for drug coverage and medical benefits. Beyond premiums and deductibles, the most common expenses you’ll have with Medicare Advantage plans are copayments and coinsurance. These two terms are referred to as “cost-sharing.” This is what you’ll pay out of pocket when you receive covered services. All the amounts you pay during the year count towards your annual out-of-pocket cap. Examples Of Medicare Advantage Costs Let’s look at 3 examples of how these Medicare Advantage costs work in a Medicare Advantage HMO plan. (Note: These costs are not the actual costs for any specific plan, but rather, in the range of costs for plans that you may have access to.) Scenario 1: Medicare Part B Services You injure yourself shoveling snow on your property, and you go to the doctor for an examination. You’ll pay a copay of $20 to see your primary care physician who then refers you to an orthopedic specialist. Your orthopedic specialist charges you a $35 copay for the office visit and wants you to get x-rays. You pay a $50 copay for the x-rays. Fortunately, nothing is broken or torn, so your specialist refers you to physical therapy. You pay a copay of $40 for four physical therapy sessions. Your total out-of-pocket spending for this injury is $265, spread out over a month-long period. All of these costs count towards your Medicare Advantage out-of-pocket maximum. Scenario 2: Medicare Part A & B Services You experience the symptoms of an irregular heartbeat, so you’re admitted to the hospital as an inpatient. You spend two nights in the hospital. You pay a copay of $300 per day, which amounts to a total of $600. After you’re released from the hospital, you continue to see a cardiologist, and you pay a $35 copay to see this specialist each time you visit. Scenario 3: Cancer You’re diagnosed with a treatable cancer, and you’re given chemotherapy. The copay for this treatment is 20% of the Medicare-approved cost. Although 20% amounts to more than $20,000, you hit your annual out-of-pocket maximum, so your costs are capped at $5,900 for the year. When Can You Enroll In Medicare Advantage? You can normally enroll in or change your Medicare Advantage coverage during 3 periods of time: Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) when you’re first eligible for Medicare. The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which runs from October 15 to December 7 each year. The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period from January 1 to March 31 each year - however, this MA open enrollment is only for those already in a Medicare Advantage plan. Enrolling In Medicare Advantage For The First Time If you’re turning 65, you can enroll in Medicare Advantage during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Your IEP lasts for 7 months, which begins 3 months before your 65th birthday, includes that birthday month, and ends 3 months after you turn 65. If you’re under 65, your first chance to enroll in Medicare Advantage starts: After your 24th month of receiving Social Security disability benefits, or At any age if you have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gherig’s Disease, or if you have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). Changing Your Medicare Coverage During AEP The Medicare Open Enrollment Period, also called the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period or Annual Election Period, is a good time to decide whether Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare is right for you. Also keep in mind that Medicare Advantage plan benefits can change annually. So if you have a MA plan, you should check to make sure the plan still meets your needs. Here are the actions you can take during AEP: Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan. Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another. Disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare. Change from one prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D) to another. Enroll in a prescription drug plan. Cancel your prescription drug coverage. If you enroll in, or switch your Medicare Advantage insurance during AEP, your new coverage will be effective on January 1st of the following year. You may also be able to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan if you drop your Medicare Advantage coverage during AEP. The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you have access to another enrollment period beyond AEP: The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA-OEP). MA-OEP runs from January 1 to March 31 of each year. During the MA-OEP, you can: Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another. Drop Medicare Advantage, and return to Original Medicare. Add a Prescription Drug Plan if you return to Original Medicare. It’s important to keep in mind that the MA-OEP is only for people who already have a Medicare Advantage plan. If you change plans during the MA-OEP, your new coverage will be effective on the first day of the month after you enroll. Medicare Advantage & ESRD Coverage For all years before 2021, there was an exclusion for people with permanent kidney failure, known as End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). ESRD patients could not get new Medicare Advantage coverage. However, beginning January 1, 2021, ESRD patients will be able to enroll in or switch Medicare Advantage plans. Now the eligibility for Medicare Advantage and Original Medicare will be perfectly aligned. Medicare Advantage And Other Special Scenarios We mentioned earlier that Special Needs Plans (SNPs) are a type of Medicare Advantage insurance. Let’s take a look at some common types of SNPs, and how Medicare Advantage health plans are also helping people to get access to care and benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. Medicare Advantage And Chronic Conditions There are Medicare Advantage plan options for people with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. These plans are known as Chronic Special Needs Plans (Medicare C-SNPs), and the benefits are tailored to help you treat and manage your chronic condition. These health plans often provide you with a care coordinator to make sure your needs are being met. These Special Needs Plans have Special Enrollment Periods (often called SEPs), so if you qualify for a C-SNP, you can enroll in it at any time. You won’t have to wait for an annual enrollment window. Medicare Advantage And Medicaid Another kind of Special Needs Plan exists for “Dual Eligibles” – people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. These plans, called Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans (D-SNPs), have cost-sharing that conforms to the Medicaid program, which means that most costs are $0. D-SNPs incorporate various prescription drug discount programs, depending on your income level - so you’ll save money on your prescriptions if you qualify. D-SNP plans also have more favorable enrollment windows, which allow you to access the benefits once you become eligible for Medicaid or extra help and at certain times during the year without waiting for an annual enrollment window. Medicare Advantage And COVID-19 Medicare provides Coronavirus coverage to help people combat the virus, which includes: No-cost lab testing. Antibody testing. All medically-necessary services and procedures, including hospitalizations and doctor’s visits. Coronavirus vaccine coverage, when one becomes available. Many Medicare Advantage health plans are waiving cost-sharing for these services. In this case, you wouldn’t pay a copayment or coinsurance for seeing a doctor or going to the hospital if you have COVID-19. Medicare has also approved an expanded role for telehealth and virtual doctor’s visits. And many Medicare Advantage health care plans offer these no-contact services with no out-of-pocket cost to you. Medicare Advantage Plan Ratings Every established Medicare Advantage plan is given a Medicare Start Rating by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Star ratings range from 1 to 5, with 5 stars being the highest. Here’s a breakdown of what each rating means: 5-star rating: Excellent 4-star rating: Above Average 3-star rating: Average 2-star rating: Below Average 1-star rating: Poor Medicare Advantage plans are rated on several different metrics and are given an overall rating. This Medicare star ratings system is designed to help you get a feel for the level of quality and satisfaction a MA plan offers. Star ratings also give you an idea of how well a plan treats its members. Plans are rated on how quickly it responds to appeals and complaints and how they cover health screenings and preventative services. Plans are also rated for both medical benefits and prescription drug benefits, if the plan has drug coverage. How To Enroll In A Medicare Advantage Plan If you want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll want to consider 3 things before joining: Make sure you find a plan that’s available in your area. Most Medicare Advantage plans are restricted to specific counties or states. Make sure your current doctors and medications are covered. This is especially important if you’re looking at a Medicare Advantage HMO plan. You’ll have to use the doctors that are in-network, and you’ll only get coverage for medications that are on the plan formulary. So make sure you investigate these before enrolling. Pay attention to star ratings. This can help you compare the overall quality among different plans. But keep in mind that new plans are not given star ratings until enough data has been collected for CMS to calculate a rating. Once you’ve found a plan, you have a few options to enroll, including: Online, by phone, or paper enrollment directly with the insurance company. Working with a licensed health insurance agent who can help you find, compare, and enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan of your choice. Medicare Advantage Guide Conclusion Medicare Advantage plans can be a great way to manage your out-of-pocket spending while enjoying extra benefits we covered, if you qualify. And they can offer some compelling advantages over Original Medicare, depending on your healthcare needs. So if you'd like to learn more about Medicare Advantage plans in your area, call 800-620-4519 to reach a licensed insurance agent who may be able to guide you to the right plan for your needs. You can also try online Medicare plan comparison tool.
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