Roughly 20 percent of the American population was enrolled in Medicare in 2020, according to AARP. Mihaela Vincze, from nonprofit Transamerica Center for Health Studies, is joining me to discuss the open enrollment period for Medicare, the federal health insurance program designed for those 65 and older.
Al: What exactly is Medicare Open Enrollment, and when is it happening this year?
Mihaela: Medicare Open Enrollment is the seven-week period that gives eligible individuals, or those receiving Medicare, a chance to change and review their coverage for 2021. This year it is from October 15 to December 7.
Al: What kind of plans can individuals enroll in?
Mihaela: The most popular programs are Part A and Part B, which make-up Original Medicare. Part A covers inpatient hospital care, and limited coverage ofhospice, nursing home care, and at-home care. Part B covers outpatient hospital care, such as physical therapy, doctor bills, and preventive care. Part B is optional and costs an extra monthly fee or premium, which depends on income.
Al: How much is the extra monthly fee for Part B?
Mihaela: Part B costs are determined by your yearly income from two years prior. For example, those who made $87,000 or less in 2018 paid the standard premium of $144.60 per month in 2020. Those who made more than $87,000 in 2018 had higher costs, determined by their income brackets. If you are shopping for a 2021 Medicare plan, keep in mind that the cost will be determined by your income in 2019.
Al: So, we’ve covered Part A and Part B which make up Original Medicare, are there any other plans listeners should know about?
Mihaela: Yes, there are also Part C programs, also known as Medicare Advantage plans which are managed by private insurance companies. And lastly, there are Part D plans which provide extra coverage for prescription drug plans, for instance, anyone who is prescribed insulin.
Al: With all these different Medicare options, how should one choose which is best for them?
Mihaela: It is important to review the annual notice of changes from your insurance provider, which lists any adjustments to your coverage or costs. Also make sure to consider all costs, not just the monthly premium—really think of any major medical procedures you expect in the next year when making this decision. Medicare Advantage plans are often less expensive than Original Medicare, and some plans offer additional benefits that Original Medicare does not.
Al: How do individuals apply?
Mihaela: This year, the process is different because of the pandemic. Instead of enrolling in person, individuals are now expected to apply online, by mail, or over the phone.
Al: For those listening, who think they may need help, where can they turn?
Mihaela: There are a few options-- they can turn to the State Health Insurance Assistance Program or SHIP. Each state offers free counseling, which is unbiased and not connected to any health insurance plan. Furthermore, the Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) has consolidated the eight websites into one streamlined Medicare online tool called “Medicare Plan Finder” which could also be helpful. Visit medicare.gov for more details.
Al: Thank you again for joining us, Mihaela. This has been another episode of ClearPath Radio – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth. I’m your host Al Waller – thanks for listening.