It's time for the annual Medicare fall open-enrollment period. For those of you who aren't familiar with open-enrollment, it means that seniors and those who are eligible for Medicare can choose which plan they will use or make changes to their current plan to better fit their needs. Although this may seem like a convenience, it can actually cause a lot of confusion for those who are eligible for the program.
Some people opt for the cheapest Medicare plan available and later find out it did not offer the coverage they needed. Some plans offer emergency room coverage, others do not, some offer better prescription coverage than others and some do not cover overnight hospital stays. With so many options it can be hard to know which one is right for you. Throw in the confusion of the Affordable Care Act, and it gets worse.
Before you get too confused, there are a few things you should know about choosing the right Medicare plan. Know that the cheapest plan is not necessarily the best one and as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. You also don't need to worry about the Affordable Care Act affecting your benefits, at least not right now anyways. You also don't need to hurry through your selection process. You have until December 5th to choose your plan.
If you think you are the only one confused by the many different Medicare options, you're not. A recent study at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond asked 70 medical students and residents to pick the cheapest plan for a hypothetical patient, "Bill," from a list of three or nine plans. Only half of the students picked the right package, based on the same information given to Medicare members to help them make their decision.
If you are still confused about choosing your own Medicare plan or helping a family member choose the most affordable plan, don't get frustrated. Do your research online and look for Medicare planning resources for consumers who are seeking to understand or purchase Medicare plans.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.