As of October 15, 2017 the Medicare program has opened for new applications. The federal government benefit is for citizens with a disability and/or senior citizens, both who now have the ability to enroll into a plan for 2018. Or they can keep their current option and “extend” it into the new year.
There are two different options available. The first is “standard Medicare”. This is the benefit that the federal government runs, and is the more traditional, long standing program that probably is discussed the most. The second option for 2018 is “Medicare Advantage”, which is what private health insurance companies offer consumers. Read more on Medicare.
2018 enrollment dates
The program is open for applications from October 15, 2017 to December 7, 2017. This provides seniors as well as the disabled almost 2 full months to do the research, learn about alternative health insurance policies, and to sign up.
Even if you are now enrolled into some Medicare benefit program, you still have the ability to make changes. There is a need to re-enroll for 2018. For those who are now enrolled, they should receive some form of notification called either the (1) annual notice of change or the (2) evidence of benefits from their insurance company.
This notification will provide details on what the cost of their plan will be for 2018 will be as well as any changes to the services offered. So it will discuss co-pays, what prescription drugs are covered or not, the deductibles, total amount of medical bill obligations, and much more. Each current enrollee should receive this notice, or demand it from their insurance company if they did not get it.
Note the key differences between the two options. Medicare Advantage is offered by private health insurance companies, such as Aetna and United Health Care. While they administer the program, the federal government does pay for a portion of it. The private insurance (Advantage) generally operates like any other policy…the insurance company offers patients a select network of doctors/hospitals; they tend to offer dental, vision coverage; there is a maximum deductible that the enrollee needs to pay before 100% insurance kicks in; and other terms.
On the other hand, the federal government Medicare offers a much wider network of doctors/hospitals to the senior or disabled client. There are fewer limits on how much the enrollee needs to pay for their medical bills, and this policy is often combined with Medigap.
Prescription drug plans, or Medicare Part D, also need to be selected for 2018. Compare the monthly premiums, whether there is a gap in coverage (or “doughnut hole”), whether authorization is needed, and more. Compare all the plans side by side, and select the best option for you and your family.
Questions on Medicare 2018?
The process can be complicated. There are many options to consider, all with different prices, costs, coverage periods, etc. There are health care advocates that can help, non-profit organizations such as the Senior Health Insurance Information Program, and Medicare also offers a customer support number. If you are unsure how to proceed, do not hesitate to ask for help!