A Crash Course in 2019 Medicare Options

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If you’re nearly 65 or older, 2019 Medicare information is soon coming your way.  And, you’ll be in good company. Oprah Winfrey, John Malkovich and Christie Brinkley are all eligible for Medicare this year!  But, will you be able to read your Medicare documents? If you’re like millions of Americans, you’ll need accessible versions of your Medicare documents in the format that’s easiest for you to read.  And, you’re entitled to that information.

Let’s review some important Open Enrollment dates, plan information and how you can get Medicare documents in your preferred accessible format.

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2019 Open Enrollment Dates

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If you’re new to Medicare and have never enrolled, you’ll likely receive an informational package from Medicare in the mail.  There is a 7 month Initial Enrollment Period that runs 3 months before and after the month you turn 65.

2019 Medicare Open Enrollment starts October 15th, 2018, and goes through December 7th, 2018.  This is the time when individuals eligible for Medicare are able to enroll or make changes to their plans.  The new plans go into effect on January 1st, 2019.

You may be asking, “What if the new plan doesn’t meet my needs?”  If your new Medicare Part C or D plan doesn’t fit your needs, don’t worry.  There’s a chance to switch to a plan that’s right for you during the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.

The dates for the 2019 Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period will be different than the previous program, Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period.  You’ll now have January 1st through March 31st, 2019, to make changes or disenroll. Your options during this time include switching Medicare Advantage plans, returning to Original Medicare, and changing your Medicare Part D coverage.

These enrollment periods aren’t the only opportunity you’ll have to sign up for Medicare but, if you wait, you may incur a late penalty fee and have a gap in coverage.

Medicare Plan Options

The beginning of October is an ideal time to start your 2019 Medicare options research.  This should give you enough time to thoroughly review the plans and make an educated decision prior to the December 7th deadline.

Medicare and Gap Plans

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More on Your Medicare Options

Medicare Parts A and B are the Original Medicare coverage.  These plans cover certain hospital stays, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, outpatient care, medical supplies, preventive care, and more.  Many choose to enroll in Part A when they turn 65 because there’s no monthly premium and some choose to delay Part B. There’s a monthly premium for Part B coverage and it varies depending on your income level.

A Medicare Advantage Plan is a program that allows people to receive their Part A and B services from a private health insurance provider.  Often there are supplemental and preventive services that a private company may provide that isn’t available through the Original Medicare programs.

Medicare Part D is a prescription drug plan.  This is additional coverage and the cost varies depending on a number of factors including your prescription drugs, pharmacy choice, chosen plan, and more.

Medigap is a supplemental insurance plan offered through private companies.  It works with Original Medicare to help cover out-of-pocket costs. However, you’re only guaranteed a Medigap plan within the first six months of being 65 and when you’re already enrolled in Medicare Part B.  After six months, you can be denied Medigap coverage based on your health.

Medicare Medical Savings Accounts

Some private Medicare Advantage Plans also offer Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) Plans.  This type of plan combines a high-deductible health insurance plan with a medical savings account that you can use to pay for your health care costs.  Medicare MSA Plans give you the freedom to control your health care dollars and provide you with important coverage against high health care costs.

Already Have Health Benefits?

If you’re still employed or have retirement benefits, it’s important to meet with your employer, union, or other benefits administrator about their rules before joining a Medicare Advantage Plan.  Please note that joining a Medicare Advantage Plan may cause you to lose employer or union coverage. If you lose coverage for yourself, you may also lose coverage for your spouse and dependents.

In some cases, you may join a Medicare Advantage Plan and still retain your employer or union coverage.  However, if you drop that coverage, you may not be able to get it back.

Be mindful of your options, do your homework, and gather all necessary information. This will allow you to make an informed decision that best meets your needs.

Get Your Accessible Medicare Documents

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As a person with a visual impairment or blindness, you’re entitled to equal access to all documents in alternative formats such as braillelarge printaudio and accessible PDF.  In order to get your documents in your preferred format, you’ll need to send a request to your Medicare insurance provider.  You can download and use our template to help you request your accessible Medicare documents.

Remember, it’s your legal right to have all Medicare documents in a format that you can access.

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This post was written by Jessica Sanders

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