Everything You Need To Know About Medicare 2018

Tori Marsh
Tori Marsh, MPH, is on the Research Team at GoodRx, and is the resident expert on drug pricing and savings.
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We are in the thick of Medicare open enrollment, meaning that seniors 65 and over now have the chance to enroll in—or switch to—a new healthcare plan that could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs.

Yet surprisingly, only 1 in 10 seniors voluntarily switch their plan each year, with most members staying put, even if their premiums have increased or their medications are dropped from their formulary. This can leave older patients on the hook for hefty out-of-pocket costs. Needless to say, enrollment can be a confusing process, but GoodRx is here to help.

When is open enrollment?

Medicare plans offer open enrollment from October 15th to December 7th. Keep in mind that this is different from the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) open enrollment that lasts from November 1st to December 15th. (More to come on ACA enrollment soon.)

There is one exception. In 2017, seniors who live in hurricane-affected areas have until the end of December to enroll. This includes seniors in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For more information, read here, or call 1-800-633-4227.

What’s changing in 2018?

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Traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage?

Medicare Advantage, also referred to as Medicare Part C, has increased in popularity over the past couple of years. But how does it differ from original Medicare, and is it better?

Medicare Advantage plans are run by private insurance companies that wrap Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) into one plan. Some will even include prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D). Advantage plans have a lot of benefits like coverage for outpatient services, and the ability to include dental, hearing, and vision coverage into your plan.

The trade off? Most Medicare Advantage plans limit you to certain doctors and hospitals, whereas people on original Medicare can visit any provider who accepts Medicare. If you’re comfortable with the network, though, these plans can be great ways to get great care.

Read here for more information on Medicare Advantage plans.

What plans are available?

Most seniors have around 20 Medicare plans to choose from, depending on where you live. If you live in a rural community, it may be harder to find a plan that suits you.

Overall, eight insurers dominate the marketplace. These include United Healthcare, Humana, Anthem, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Aetna, Kaiser Permanente, Cigna, and WellCare. The plan finder from Medicare.gov is a great way to find the best insurer.

5 tips to help you save

For any additional questions, be sure to read through this FAQ from The Kaiser Family Foundation.

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