2018 Medicare Open Enrollment: a shopper’s guide

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It’s that time of year again. If you’re one of the roughly 44 million Americans enrolled in Medicare, get ready for some year-end shopping. Medicare’s annual open enrollment period runs from October 15th until December 7th and presents seniors with a great opportunity to manage their health care costs for the coming year. Any changes or new enrollment will become effective on January 1, 2019.

There are several important changes to the Medicare program for 2019, including the elimination of the coverage gap for certain prescription drugs and updates to the Medicare Plan Finder tool that will make it easier to use. Beneficiaries should note that Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans can and do make changes throughout the year that may affect their coverage. And even if you’re content with your existing plan, options with better coverage, fewer restrictions, and lower costs may be available. Now is your chance to find them. Continue reading

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Medicare mailings: culling for dollars

 

blog Image junk mailA visit to the mailbox is an unrewarding chore for many of us, and retirees are no exception. Slogging through a mountain of credit card applications, donation requests, assorted fliers, catalogs and magazine offers are enough to make answering a robocall from a political super PAC seem like an attractive diversion. The month of September, however, offers Medicare beneficiaries a worthwhile excuse to cull the contents of their mailbox in search of some important Medicare informational mailings. Mailings that just may save you some money! Medicare beneficiaries should be on the lookout for the following consumer mailings from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and their insurance plans.

Annual Notice of Change

The Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) is a booklet that is provided to individuals that are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D prescription drug plan and explains changes to the plan for the coming year. These may include updates to the plan’s service area, premiums, deductibles, copayments or coinsurance, as well as changes to the plan’s prescription drug coverage and formulary. This information is provided by the insurance plan and should be received by the beneficiary by September 30th.

Evidence of coverage (EOC)

This document is generally sent with the ANOC and describes in considerable detail the health care benefits provided by the plan. It documents what the plan covers, how it works, how to access plan benefits or file a complaint or appeal, and defines the beneficiary’s rights and responsibilities under the plan. With the heft of a phone book, it’s difficult to miss.

“Medicare and You” handbook

Mailed to all Medicare beneficiaries in late September, the handbook is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of Medicare coverage. In addition to information pertaining to benefits, it lists covered services and available health and drug plans. An excellent reference, the handbook is also available online at Medicare.gov.

Notice of Creditable Coverage

Employers who sponsor a group health plan that offers prescription drug coverage, regardless of the plan’s size, and including public sector, government and not-for-profit organizations, must notify their Medicare-eligible beneficiaries by October 15th whether their plan’s prescription drug coverage is creditable. A plan with creditable prescription drug coverage is one that provides a benefit at least as good as that provided by Medicare. Medicare-eligible beneficiaries with creditable drug coverage can delay enrollment in Medicare Part D without incurring a late enrollment penalty.

What to do?

Medicare beneficiaries that are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan should review the plan’s service area and participating providers list each year to ensure that it continues to meet their needs. Make sure to verify that your favorite medical facilities and service providers accept the plan. If you’ve moved, had a material change in health, or a favorite provider is no longer participating in the plan it may be wise to look for a new plan. For those that wish to change from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare, the 2019 Medicare Advantage Diserollment period (January 1- February 14) affords beneficiaries with the ability to switch back to Original Medicare and, for the first time, to sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plan beneficiaries should review their plan’s prescription drug coverage annually.  Medicare Advantage plans generally, but not always, include drug coverage, while Medicare Part D plans are most often utilized by those that receive their medical coverage through Original Medicare. It is important to review the plan’s prescription drug formulary each year to determine whether your medications are covered under the plan, and which pricing tier they are assigned. A relatively painless way to check your plan’s prescription drug formulary, and identify a plan that best suits your needs, is to utilize the Medicare Plan Finder tool.

A word of caution about Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plans

Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans are offered for sale throughout the year, though attempting to purchase a plan outside of your  Medigap Open Enrollment Period may subject you to medical underwriting. Guaranteed-issue rights are afforded to beneficiaries that sign up during their open enrollment period, which lasts for six months and begins on the first day of the month in which they are age 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B. During this period, insurers cannot charge a higher premium or deny coverage because of a preexisting condition (although they may delay coverage for up to six months).

Although certain states, including NY, CT, MA and ME provide residents with guaranteed issue rights that are either continuous or extended on an annual basis, most states afford little or no protection. Medicare beneficiaries should exercise caution when attempting to purchase a plan outside of their Medigap Open Enrollment Period. For help understanding the protections afforded in your state, contact your State Health Insurance Program counselor for assistance.

Medicare Open Enrollment is a once a year opportunity to review your health insurance coverage and take control of your health care spending for the coming year. Although changes to existing coverage are not always warranted, far too many beneficiaries fail to take the opportunity to review and update their plans. Just this once, a trip to the mailbox may actually save you money. And isn’t that worth slogging through a pile of junk mail?

Sincerely,

forblogs_jm_head

John Male, CFP®, RICP®

The Gassman Financial Group

The Retirement Maven™

9 East 40th Street

New York, NY 10016

Tel: 212-221-7067

www.gassmanfg.com

www.theretirementmaven.com

 

Medicare’s IRMAA Blows Ashore in 2018

Medicare open-enrollment season is here again, running from October 15th-December 7th.  During this period, the roughly 45 million Americans enrolled in Medicare have the opportunity to review their current coverage and make changes for the upcoming year.  It’s also the time when Medicare recipients are reminded of the costs associated with their coverage, and how these might change going forward.  And while some costs are expected to remain stable, or even decrease slightly, in 2018 an increasing number of higher-income enrollees will be subject the Medicare’s Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA), which increases their Medicare Part B and Part D premiums.
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2017 Medicare Open Enrollment Checklist

healthcareIt’s that time of year again. If you’re one of the roughly 45 million Americans enrolled in Medicare, get ready for some year-end shopping. Medicare open enrollment for Medicare Supplement and Advantage plans and Medicare prescription drug plans runs from October 15th until December 7th. Open enrollment presents a great opportunity for seniors to manage their health care costs for the coming year. Continue reading

The Yearly Journey of 1,000 Steps: It’s Tax Season and I Can Do Better

journeyAh, mid-February- that time of year when my postman provides a daily barrage of tax documents, and scolds me for not retrieving them quickly enough. When it finally becomes apparent that he can no longer jam another rumpled envelope into my overflowing mail slot I know it’s time to file my taxes. While this annual ritual often yields a financial reward in the form of a tax refund, there is clearly a higher purpose for the enormous pile of paper. Note to self: my inner guilt will be quelled; this year I will make better use of tax time, and so can you. Continue reading

Which type of IRA is right for you?

roth_or_traditional_iraAsk a financial planner whether to save for retirement using a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA and you may receive an unsatisfying answer: it depends. While the Roth IRA is a much-loved planning tool, whether it’s the best option for you will depend on several factors, but math is not one of them. Continue reading

Comparing Medicare Supplement Insurance and Medicare Advantage Plans

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It’s true: Original Medicare does cover most health care expenses, but it comes with significant deductibles and coinsurance payments that can quickly add up. As a result, many American seniors will opt to defray these costs with a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) or Medicare Advantage Policy.

In our most recent blog post- 2015 Medicare Open Enrollment Checklist– we discussed the services provided by Original Medicare and some important considerations for augmenting this coverage for the upcoming year. This week, we’ll compare Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans and review some important considerations that could  make deciding between the plan types easier.

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2015 Medicare Open Enrollment Checklist

healthcareIt’s that time of year again. If you’re one of the roughly 50 million Americans enrolled in Medicare, get ready for some year-end shopping.

Medicare open enrollment for Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage runs from October 15th until December 7th, and presents a great opportunity for senMedicareCardiors to manage their health care costs for the coming year. On offer are prescription-drug and Medicare Advantage plans, as well as the opportunity to switch plan types.

“It’s like deja-vu, all over again”

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Long-Term Care Insurance – Do You Need It?

“There are 4 kinds of people in the world.  Those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be care givers, and those who need care givers.” – Roslynn Carter

Which one will you be?

Financial planning focuses on building and accumulating wealth for your retirement and, ultimately, the transferring of your wealth to the people that you love.

When people think about the challenges and threats to their retirements, the most commonly thought of culprit is financial losses in the stock market.  However, people typically fail to consider the risks of other types of ‘retirement invaders’ such as health care costs and long-term care costs.  Both of those situations can cause costly problems, often much more so than volatility in the stock market.

Planning for long term care is more than just more than simply planning for how to pay your bills.  From a financial planning perspective, long term care insurance planning determines how much of the monetary risk a client wants to assume versus how much they are willing to shift to an insurance company.

So what does Long-Term Care Insurance do?

1. Long-Term Care Insurance is a tool that protects your lifestyle as well as your retirement nest egg and savings.

2. Long-Term Care Insurance provides and preserves the freedom of choice as to how and where care is to be received.

3. Long-Term Care Insurance gives your loved ones peace of mind to care about you and not care for you.

One of the greatest myths about Long-Term Care is as it relates to Medicare.  Generally, Medicare does not pay for Long-Term Care.  Under limited circumstances and for a limited period of time Medicare will pay for medically necessary skilled nursing facilities or home health care. You must meet the rigorous conditions to be eligible for Medicare to cover the costs.  Most Long-Term Care is to assist people with support services, for example: activities of daily living like dressing, bathing, or using a bathroom.  Medicare does not pay for this type of care called custodial care.

4.  Those who purchase qualified Long-Term Care Insurance can take a tax deduction for part of the premium.  The tax deductibility limits for 2013 and 2014 are:

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For those who live in certain states (for example, New York), your state may provide a special tax deduction or special tax credit.

Why is it important to consider Long-Term Care Insurance now?

“Old age is like everything else, to make a success of it, you’ve got to start young.” – Theodore Roosevelt

1. Eligibility for the purchase of long term care insurance: any change in health, can impact your ability to obtain Long-Term Care Insurance.  Waiting to apply could be a very costly mistake.

2. Potential $ Savings: The younger you start Long-Term Care Insurance, the more you can save on premiums.

If you want to learn more, contact us.