Tips to prepare, compare and enroll in a 2019 Medicare plan - Medicare Changes Tips to prepare, compare and enroll in a 2019 Medicare plan - Medicare Changes
Tips to prepare, compare and enroll in a 2019 Medicare plan

Tips to prepare, compare and enroll in a 2019 Medicare plan My Medicare Cost plan is going away, and I need a new plan for 2019. I could use some tips to help me get ready.

I’m always grateful when someone shares a tip that helps me understand something a little better. I feel confident when I’m “in the know.” When it comes to preparing for Medicare in 2019, it’s really important to be in the know.

You probably know that Medicare Cost plans are going away in 66 Minnesota counties. For details, read the article What’s happening to Medicare Cost plans? If you live in one of these counties, you need to choose a new Medicare plan for 2019. If you have a Medicare Cost plan from your former employer or union, they may need to move you to a new Medicare plan.

Watch your mail this fall for information from your health plan, former employer or union. It’ll cover any changes and options for new plans. You’ll also get a letter from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS); keep that letter as proof of your eligibility for various enrollment opportunities.

Here are my tips to help you prepare, compare and enroll.

Know key dates

The first tip is to mark key dates on your calendar. The time to compare plans and enroll is during the Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP).  But you’ll also have other enrollment opportunities due to this change.

  • Oct. 1, 2018 is the first day health plans can share information about 2019 Medicare plan options. You’ll be able to find out about Medicare plans’ costs, benefits and networks.
  • Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, 2018 is the AEP. During this time you can complete your enrollment for your new 2019 plan. Your new Medicare plan starts Jan. 1, 2019.
  • Now – March 5, 2019 is the Guaranteed Issue Right Medicare Supplement Enrollment Period when you can enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan without providing your health history.
  • Dec. 8, 2018 – Feb. 28, 2019 is the time period when you are eligible for a one-time Special Election Period (SEP). You can enroll in a different Medicare plan due to the Cost plan closing. Or, you can choose Original Medicare only.
  • Jan. 1, 2019 – March 31, 2019 is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. If you are a Medicare Advantage member, you can switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan or add/drop Part D coverage.

If you receive your Medicare Cost coverage through a former employer or union, your enrollment period may vary. Please contact your plan administrator.

Medicare Worksheet

Use this worksheet to compare 2019 Medicare plans

  • Track and compare benefits and costs for different Medicare plans

  • Make a list of your medicines, doctors and pharmacy

Know your health care needs

The best way to compare plan benefits and costs is to know your own health care needs. Tip #2 is to log on to your health plan’s online account and write down information about your health care and prescription drugs.

HealthPartners member, you can do that here.

How often do you visit a doctor during the year? Do you have upcoming needs for medical care or surgery?

  • This information can help you estimate the costs for different plans. You can tally up doctor office copays and see if one plan makes more sense in terms of cost and coverage.

What medicines do you take and at what dosage?

  • Use your list of current medicines that you take to check the formulary – it’s a list of medicines that each plan covers. You can usually find the formulary on the plan’s website. You’ll want to make sure the plan you’re interested in covers your medicines. Check which tier a medicine is on and the copay amount. It can vary from one plan to the next.

Know the network

Many Medicare plans have a network of doctors, clinics, hospitals and pharmacies that you can use for your health care. Tip #3 is to know if a doctor or pharmacy is in or out of the Medicare plan’s network. You typically pay the least amount when you use a doctor or pharmacy in the network. If you get care out of the network, you usually pay more for those services. You can learn more about this in the article, Why I should know my network.

Ask yourself if it is important to keep the same doctor(s) or pharmacy, or are you willing to switch?

  • If you have ongoing or specialized care needs, it might be important to you to keep your doctor. If so, find a plan that has your doctor in its network.
  • If you only visit a doctor once in a while, you may be OK with choosing a new doctor that is in a plan’s network.
  • Ask yourself if you want to keep your pharmacy, or are you willing to change to another one?

Talk to an expert if you want help

One more tip to help you through Medicare enrollment: talk to a licensed Medicare sales representative for guidance. They understand how Medicare works. They can help you learn about the different types of Medicare plans to meet your needs. And they can help you complete the enrollment.

HealthPartners will continue to support you through these changes so you get the Medicare plan that best fits your needs. Check out a variety of resources in the article, Where to go for info.