The Deadline for Medicare Enrollment Is Near: Donít Forget to Review Your Plan

 Sally Greenberg

A recent survey conducted by WellCare Health Plans, a partner of the National Consumers League, revealed that the majority of seniors do not review their Medicare plan each year to ensure they're getting the best services and access to care.

This is problematic, because health care is not only a significant expense for most seniors – in fact, seniors queried in the survey indicated that health care is their most burdensome household expense – but it's also a decision that they'll need to live with for a full year, until the next open enrollment. Over the course of that year, it's likely that the status of a senior's health is going to change, so it's critical that they invest the time to review their plans.

Whether it's traditional Medicare, a supplemental plan or a private Medicare Advantage plan, there are many options for seniors. Not all plans are the same. While seniors tend to evaluate for the typical coverage – prescription drugs and in-network doctors – diagnostic testing, corrective eye exams, hearing aids, physical therapy and substance abuse and mental health services are also critical services.

The Kaiser Family Foundation notes that out-of-pocket expenses for health care accelerate with age. The growth in spending between younger and older seniors is significant. Daunting as they may seem, these annual reviews will pay off and are worth the time.

To help seniors take charge of the Medicare review process, here are some recommendations and resources:

Check the Boxes

Review your current plan's paperwork, including benefits and any limitations. Make sure the Medicare plan covers the drugs you'll need now, but also ones you may need in the coming year. Talk to your health care provider about medications you may need. Check that the plan network includes the health care providers, hospitals and pharmacies you use. And don't assess plan costs based only on the premium; also consider the deductible and the cost-sharing features of the plan.

Review Past Medical History

Save your medical receipts and review them. Determine how much money you spent and on what services. This will help you plan for possible expenses in the coming year.

Plan for the "What Ifs?"

Create a priority list for a Medicare plan, including not just "must haves," but also "might needs." An injury or surgery can happen in an instant and often requires rehabilitative services, such as physical therapy. But patients can quickly hit traditional Medicare's yearly limit on those services and need to cover the remaining costs themselves. It's important to have a plan for these instances.

Take it Slow and Get Help

Don't try to review everything in one day. Do a little bit each day until the Dec. 7 deadline, and get some help from a friend or family member. Go to to research plans based on your needs. Also, access community resources – such as senior centers – and the toll-free numbers provided by the plan providers to ask questions.

It's not worth putting your health or finances at risk due to a sub-optimal plan. There is still time for seniors to review their Medicare options before the Dec. 7 deadline. Investing the time is critical and can help preserve your health – and your finances, too

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