Medicare.gov (the Medicare official website) provides a free and relatively easy to use resource to help you select the right Medicare Advantage (Part C) insurance policy for your situation. (It is also an excellent resource for researching PDP – prescription drug plan – options. These are also known as Part D plans.) I strongly recommend their “Medicare Plan Finder.” It can help you find plans available in your area that will cover your medications most cost effectively.
As a broker, I use this site to help me help my Connecticut clients, but the information applies to any state. And anyone with an Internet connection can take advantage of this great resource.
After you enter your zip code, your medications and a few other details, the site will give you an estimate of the costs you can expect to pay. This estimate includes the monthly premiums for each policy, the cost of the co-payments and other cost shares that you are likely to pay during the next 12 months.
Looking at overall costs is important. Having a low-cost policy is often the best option. It is not always the best option. Finding a balance between premium cost and policy benefits is what is important when purchasing insurance. However, there are few cases where you will be able to get this information so quickly and easily.
By simply investing a few minutes, you can generate a report that includes a short list of policies likely to do the best job for you. The site works well. Using it is like hitting a double. However, there are other steps to take before you can cross home plate.
Once you have narrowed the field, you should take the next step and make sure that you are happy with their provider lists. An agent can help you with this or you can visit the website of the company you want to research. You want to make sure that the doctors and other health care professionals you want to use are in the network. You will also want to ensure that the hospitals and pharmacies you want to use are in the network before you change plans.
Knowing what you will be paying for is important. Before considering enrollment, you should know what your plan covers and what your cost shares will be. You are likely to have co-payments or deductibles for certain medical services and deductibles for others.
Reading the policy brochures and coverage summaries can help here. You may want to consult an agent to help you; sometime it is a lot easier to ask an agent question than to search for the answer in a ream of paper.
Selecting the best Medicare health plan can be time consuming and complicated. However, you can reduce the time needed and the complexity by following a few simple steps. Medicare.gov’s “Medicare Plan Finder” can quickly and easily generate a list of plans available in your area and will include an estimate of the overall costs you are likely to pay over the course of a year. Determining whether your doctor, hospital and local pharmacy is in the network of a given company is an important next step. Reviewing the brochures or outlines of coverage can help you understand the mechanics of any policy you are considering purchasing.
Medicare Advantage programs are offered by private insurance carriers. It is a great option for seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries. (A beneficiary need not be a senior. Younger people can often join these plans.) However, it is not the only option. Another option is to stay with Original Medicare and purchase a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) and a prescription drug plan. I will cover the pros and cons of this option in a future blog post.
Medicare.gov is one of many resources that you can use to find a better plan, this website is another resource that many people have found useful.