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Medicare Open Enrollment Period Starts – Medicare Advantage Premiums Lowered

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

October 17, 2020 – The Open Enrollment Period for Medicare started this week and runs through Dec. 7. It is an important event for eligible people not currently enrolled in the plan, or who want to change some component of their current plan.

During Open Enrollment, eligible people can sign up for Medicare. Medicare beneficiaries can compare coverage options like Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, and choose health and prescription drug plans for 2021.

Medicare Plan Finder. Medicare health and drug plan costs and covered benefits can change from year-to-year. CMS urges Medicare beneficiaries to review their coverage choices and decide on the options that best meet their health needs. CMS has redesigned its Medicare Plan Finder makes it easier for beneficiaries to:

  • Compare pricing between Original Medicare, Medicare prescription drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policies;
  • Compare coverage options on their smartphones and tablets;
  • Compare up to three drug plans or three Medicare Advantage plans side-by-side;
  • Get plan costs and benefits, including which Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits;
  • Build a personal drug list and find Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage that best meets their needs.
  • Free, personalized counseling on Medicare options is also available through the nonprofit State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.

Highlights for 2021 Open Enrollment include:

  • A 34 percent decrease in average monthly premiums for Medicare Advantage plans since 2017. Beneficiaries in some states, including Alabama, Nevada, Michigan, and Kentucky, will see decreases of up to 50 percent in average Medicare Advantage premiums. More than 4,800 Medicare Advantage plans are offered for 2021, compared to about 2,700 in 2017. Similarly, more Medicare Part D plans are available, and the average basic Part D premium has dropped 12 percent since 2017. 
  • Medicare beneficiaries can join a prescription drug plan that will offer many types of insulin at a maximum copayment of $35 for a 30-day supply.

Note: Most of the above information is from the Medicare.gov website. For more about see Medicare Open Enrollment.

For further reading: What Is Your Medicare IQ

Comments? Have you used the Medicare Plan FInder? Did you find it helpful, or not? Please share your experiences below.

Posted by Admin on October 17th, 2020

19 Comments »

  1. Between a newspaper supplement about Medicare/Medicare Advantage & Medigap options, AARP mailings, insurer mailings, emails, robo-calls, etc.: we’re swamped!! I retired in one state, and relocated to another state. Fortunately I kept the same carrier for my Medicap etc. plans, so the switch was relatively painless. I even ended up saving a few bucks, since my new state was slightly cheaper. Something to always keep in mind is whether prospective plans match your lifestyle, such as providing any travel insurance or if they cover doctors in other states if you plan on being a snowbird or traveling a lot.

    It might be helpful for prospective retirees to be able to estimate what health insurance is going to cost. I’m a widow in OH. My total insurance cost per month is approx. $400. This sum includes the $144.60 for Medicare Pt. B that is deducted from S.S. a Medigap Pt. F plan that costs $135.55 (2020), and $54.10 for a good Pt. D drug plan. This $400 also includes a $40/mo. dental plan and $10/mo for a vision plan (Metlife and VSP respectively). My Medigap Pt. F plan’s price is going up a few dollars in 2021, and the Pt. D plan is dropping its price in 2021. Hope this info helps others.

    by Kate — October 22, 2020

  2. I’m on a blue shield advantage plan and get everything paid for including my premiums , medications and deductibles….

    by Mary11 — October 23, 2020

  3. I become eligible for Medicare this spring. The Medicare Advantage plans are so tempting to me as a currently very healthy person, but I will sign up for straight Medicare. I have been a rehabilitation hospital CEO in three states for the last 20 years caring for patients with massive strokes, head injuries, multiple trauma, and now Covid complications. Across the country, it is well known among rehab hospital teams that it is unlikely that a Medicare Advantage patient will be approved for admission, instead being relegated to a nursing home for rehab. In my opinion, MA plans are great until something catastrophic happens, but if something catastrophic does happen, you are in big trouble.

    by Carol — October 24, 2020

  4. Hi Kate and Mary,
    Thank you both for sharing. This information is so helpful for me. I’ve been planning our future (3-4 years away) retirement to the US. We’re living in Canada (US citizens) and since we’re not even sure what state we will live in, it is very difficult to guesstimate what our costs will be. Comments from previous years have been helpful too. 🙂

    by Cindy — October 24, 2020

  5. These comments are great. For more comments and analysis don’t miss our 5 part series on Medicare. Two of those, “What You Need to Know about Medigap Insurance“, and “Medicare Advantage and Original Medicare + Medigap: Which is Right for You“, are particularly relevant to this discussion.

    by Admin — October 24, 2020

  6. Kate, I have similar plans; B, D, F. However, I pay more for part F and D. I guess it varies by state?

    by Maimi — October 25, 2020

  7. I want to thank Carol for her post about the negative aspects to Medicare Advantage plans.
    I have been paying for a Medicare Supplemental Plan & have been tempted to switch over to a MA plan to save money. I will continue with my Medicare Supplemental Plan even though I don’t like paying the premium.

    I am a healthy person & only visit the doctor for my annual physical. I have always valued being able to choose my own doctors and if I did have an illness or catastrophic event I would really hate having limited choices because I had a MA plan.
    Thanks again Carol:)

    by Diane — October 25, 2020

  8. Like Carol I work in Healthcare and have seen MA patient’s having to get X-ray, then Physical Therapy, before getting the MRI that the Doctor ordered, person living at an Assisted Living complex that had an attached Rehab had to go to a different rehabilitation center because where she lived wasn’t part of plan. The reason she chose to live there is because her daughter was in nursing home and she could go see her daily.

    by Marguerite Slobodzian — October 25, 2020

  9. Maimi: Yes – there are price differences by state. I moved from SC to OH. I thought it was just a matter of filing a change of address with the insurer. Nope. My Pt. F and Pt. D insurers actually switched me from their SC plans to their OH plans. Surprisingly, I actually saved a few bucks.

    by Kate — October 26, 2020

  10. Thank you Carol! Last year I wrote extensively about what I know regarding MA plans.
    To summarize I will say that what they offer varies from state to state.
    My word of caution is that as the push is on to privatize Medicare we are being offered many perks and incentives to move into the private market. I question the ethics of this approach. It is my belief that Medicare has been slowly dismantled since 2017 and that these aggressive marketing efforts are pulling many out of traditional Medicare, especially the healthy and poor. It is my understanding that Medicare is paying commercial insurance companies very nice premiums to insure us. The balance is shifting as agents continue to recommend that the chronically ill stick with a traditional plan and the healthy move to MA plans, not good. Please know that behind the scenes providers are having a much harder time dealing with the increased paperwork that accompanies these MA plans (not other group plans) in the vail of following Medicare guidelines. My impression is that it is a push to discourage utilization of services by continually questioning medical necessity much more aggressively.

    by Janet — October 26, 2020

  11. Also, providers are sometimes getting lower fees for MA. services – often MUCH lower!

    by Janet — October 26, 2020

  12. I, too, as a former nurse (R.N.) administrator, and surgical nurse, cautioned against MA plans. All that glitters is definitely not gold with most of them and their zero co-pays. Many insurance carriers who offer MA plans for a while often opt out and leave their clients holding the bag, and many doctors refuse to participate with MA plans. Medi-gap must be accepted by any doctor that fully participates with Medicare. If one travels outside the insurance network with an MA plan, a pre-authorization is often required before treatment can begin and this can waste time in a life threatening situation, not so with a Medi-gap plan.

    Last year (2019), I chose Plan N because Plan F and then G seemed expensive and the projected increases in the future were very high. I have been very happy with my choice (United Healthcare AARP) and my increase will be $5.00 for 2021. I also chose (United Healthcare AARP for Part D and am happy with the coverage I received. It helps to only have Tier 1 medications as well. The increase went from $15.00 to $16.00 for 2021. I live in Washington DC.

    by Jennifer — October 26, 2020

  13. I appreciate what Janet has to say about Medicare Advantage, but much of it seems to be personal opinion or hearsay. We need factual or research backup. “It is my belief” and “My impression is” are not helpful in this important area of senior medical care.

    by Clyde — October 26, 2020

  14. Clyde,
    People can only report what they experience as a current enrollee of insurance or as I have in my life’s work. Opinions are valued on this forum–and are appreciated. If you think something is “heresay” then please do give a valid example of such and explain them rather than generalized comments.

    by Jennifer — October 27, 2020

  15. As a lawyer, I have a reasonably informed understanding of the term “hearsay.” It generally means expressing what you heard someone else say, but without making available the person who said it in order to verify the truth or existence of the statement. Impressions are generally based on what one has heard. As Jennifer stated, opinions are highly valued in many situations on this site. But Medicare is a very complex matter governed by specific laws, both state, county and federal and provisions within individual policies. Generalizations about such laws and provisions should be taken as just that, generalizations. Now if a commenter has actually personally owned a policy such as Medicare Advantage, they can speak with some authority on the subject of their experience with MA, which has thousands of variations based on a specific policy and the law of the state where issued. The merits of MA and traditional Medicare have been significantly discussed in this forum, although additional substantiated information is always helpful and appreciated. As I’ve often stated on this site, the choice of what type of Medicare policy to choose is different for each individual and what they perceive as their needs. Researching the various benefits and drawbacks of any type of policy is essential. Professional insurance agents in the field can be very helpful.

    by Clyde — October 27, 2020

  16. Everyone,
    Don’t forget that you can contact your local Area Agency on Aging and ask to speak with a SHINE/SHIP counselor. These counselors are all volunteers who are well trained and certified in all things Medicare. They do not sell anything and are very familiar with all the different Medicare options and plans in their specific area. They will spend as much time as needed to review all options with their clients. This is a free service and you can do what you want with the information but at least you will be better educated about your choices.

    Everyone who is on a Part D plan should review their drug plan every year. The Part D plans do make changes to their formularies, and drug tiers every year. Everyone on Advantage plans should review their plan to not only check about their drugs, but also to find out about out of pocket costs and to make sure their providers are still in the Advantage plan network. The counselors can help with those reviews.

    Each option has a plus and a minus so take the time to learn about which option is best for you.

    by Roberta — October 27, 2020

  17. Thank you Jennifer, Clyde, Roberta and All;
    My language definitely reflects my role as a medical professional where confidentiality is key. For the record I am a Provider and Subscriber so I do have first hand experience on both sides but cannot share many specifics. I will say factually that the fees are sometimes lower and rules more difficult for providers who accept MA plans.
    That said Medicare is a very complex issue and each of us needs to do our research and make informed decisions. There are many, many plans out there as well as resources to help us. I love my agent. This site has tremendous value for us in that process.
    I certainly own that my opinion based on my experience is that I believe Medicare is being threatened by the push to privatize it. This concerns me.

    by Janet — October 28, 2020

  18. Janet, I totally concur. The government definitely wants to get out of the insurance business and Medicare is indeed being threatened. The push towards private insurance plans has been noticeable for a few years now. It is indeed something to think about. I think back to the days when insurance was much simpler. My husband was a surgeon and also a provider. It seems year after year beginning in the eighties, insurance has been tightening the noose as it were one way or the other. New Medicare recipients must be very careful, as the wrong choice could be worrisome.

    by Jennifer — October 29, 2020

  19. When it came time to look at choosing whether cose tradition Medicare with the various components to select from, it got to be overwhelming. I heavily looked at this site and the bickering over which was the better plan and which separate medical plan was the best almost left me in tears that I was going to ruin my future healthcare by choosing the wrong option. When I looked at Medicare advantage plans offered, it was comforting to see that I could choose a plan that covered medicine and drug coverage under one umbrella. I can choose my doctors. I have coverage wherever I go. I pay nothing for this plan. After five years on MA am totally satisfied.
    I am not saying it is for everyone just want to add my experience with MA. By the way, Silver Sneakers is phenomenal!! It is free with MA; even if you are on a traditional medicare plan and don’t have this coverage, it would be worth every penny to become part of it. I have never felt better since joining.

    by hcbury — October 30, 2020

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