By Cary Hall, America's Healthcare Advocate
October 15th marks the beginning of Medicare's open enrollment process for Medicare Advantage plans like Coventry Advantra, Humana and UnitedHealthcare AARP. This open enrollment period also applies to Part D stand-alone prescription drug programs.
Open enrollment lasts from October 15th through December 7th and is the only time you can enroll in these programs or make a change between Medicare Advantage plans or Part D insurance carriers unless you have a qualifying event. In order to be eligible for enrollment to any of the plans, you must have your Part B Medicare enrollment completed.
Many of the Medicare Advantage plans are low cost or zero premium plans, but they do operate under the network provider system and may not be suitable for all Medicare recipients. For example, if you live in the Midwest but spend your winters in Arizona or Florida, you may not have network access to providers when you are out of your provider network. In this case, a MediGap or Medicare Supplement plan like Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Stonebridge or Mutual of Omaha may be a better choice, providing you access to doctors, hospitals and clinics anywhere in the country that accept Medicare.
Choosing a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plan should be done with the help of a licensed, certified broker or agent so you know (before you make your choice) what your options are, what the restrictions are and what monetary obligations you will have for out-of-pocket expenses.
It is important to note that using a broker when choosing a plan does not cost you anything and does not change the price of that Medicare Advantage or Supplement plan. Additionally, if you have claims problems or provider problems after the policy is written, it is the agent or broker's responsibility to interact with the carrier on your behalf as your advocate.
Plan ahead, choose wisely and you will probably find the Medicare products much more affordable than conventional healthcare policies while still providing the same level of benefits.