by Arlene Shovald

Special to The Mail

Medicare’s annual enrollment period is just around the corner.

“It’s that time again,” said Nancy Thomson, a licensed independent broker who has been working in Chaffee County for many years. “Like Halloween and Christmas, this annual enrollment period comes around every year, between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7, allowing consumers to evaluate and compare Medicare coverage options.”

But between Robo calls and endless commercials, many Medicare consumers are fed up before they even get started, and on top of that, this year the enrollment period coincides with an election year.

“We may decide to tune out the noise and assume that if our plan worked last year, it will work just as well this year,” Thomson said. “But is that true?”

Every year Medicare requires your advantage and prescription plan to send current members an annual notice of change. This should be received in the mail by late September.

“The key word here is ‘change.’” Thomson said. “Is your doctor still in network? Are your medications still covered or has there been a formulary change? What about changes in costs, premiums, co-pays and deductibles?”

In addition to changes in plans and coverages by the carriers there are also changes being made to the Medicare program by the federal government. Three changes coming in 2021:

• Reducing prescription costs for insulin.

• Offering coverage to end stage renal disease (kidney disease) patients.

• Allowing a one-time opportunity to change your Medicare supplement plan without underwriting.

Another change is the rise of Tele-health appointments. This is a growing trend that has been greatly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Patients now have access to doctors and counselors from the comfort and safety of home, usually at no cost.

“Medicare health insurance is a growing and competitive marketplace,” Thomson said. “The consumer is being courted by these companies. They want you but do you want them?

How do you weed through the hype and information overload to find out what is relevant to you? 

One source of good information is Medicare.gov, a government website where you learn what plans are available in your area, selected by zip code. This is a good place to start.

For more detailed and individualized information, consult a reputable agent. 

A good agent can help work through the options and find the best fit for you. An independent agent can also offer choices among all the carriers without favoring any one company.

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