How to Choose the Best Medicare Plan in Arizona

There’s a lot of information available on Medicare — and it can be overwhelming, confusing and complex. The tips below on how to choose Medicare plans in Arizona can help you start the process of enrolling or switching plans.

Like a 401(k) and traveling, Medicare is synonymous with retirement. To enjoy these golden years, it’s important to choose the right Medicare plan, whether your 65th birthday is approaching or you want to make changes to your existing plan.

Medicare is essential for taking care of your health needs and helping you live the life you planned for and dreamed of. The percentage of people covered by Medicare increased from 13% to 18% between 1990–2019,1 which shows that an increasing number of older adults continue to get coverage.

If you’re among the retiree population enrolling in (or currently enrolled in) a Medicare plan, it can be an arduous task to choose what’s right for you, your lifestyle and future. Check out these tips to get started. Afterward, make sure to review your options with an insurance advisor to get your needs met and avoid any penalties.

Assess Your Health Care Needs and Financial Situation

Take inventory of the current medical care you receive, prescriptions, regular health care expenses, ongoing doctor’s appointments, etc. Once you’ve collected all of this information, review the four parts of Medicare to get an overall understanding of the basics of Medicare: Original Medicare (Parts A and B), Medicare Advantage (Part C) and prescription drugs (Part D). Medigap is another option, and alternative to Medicare Advantage, to consider if you anticipate that you’ll need supplemental coverage.

Compare Your Current Coverage with Other Options

If you currently have Medicare, you will want to review your current plan and determine if you need to make any changes. Maybe you need extra coverage for increasing out-of-pocket expenses or want to expand your traditional coverage with a Medigap plan. Make note of the various enrollment periods for when you can sign up or switch to a different plan. You can also visit Medicare.gov/Plan-Compare to see how you can save more or get additional benefits.

Understand the Benefits of Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage (Part C) is an alternative to Original Medicare that bundles hospital, medical and often prescription drugs, vision, dental and hearing. Keep in mind, there’s less flexibility in the network of doctors and hospitals you can visit. If you want to keep your doctor, confirm with your insurer that your doctor is within your plan’s network. In 2019, 22.6 million Medicare enrollees purchased this private-insurance plan.2 You can benefit from lower or no premiums and an annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses.

Consider Your Retirement Goals

Many retirees plan to travel during their golden years. This is something to consider if you need additional coverage and are comparing Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans. Medigap supplements Original Medicare with extra coverage for copayments, deductibles and coinsurances. With Medigap, the retired traveler can also visit any U.S. doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare (and the majority do). Traveling abroad? Medigap plans typically cover international travel as well. In 2018, around 14.1 beneficiaries purchased a Medigap policy.3

Decide on Your Prescription Drug Coverage

Original Medicare generally doesn’t cover prescription drugs, which means you’ll need to purchase a Part D plan, or you can forgo Original Medicare sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan that includes Part D. Aetna Medicare Solutions advises checking to see if your medications are on your plan’s formulary or covered drugs list. If your medication isn’t covered, ask your doctor for an exception and see if your plan will accept it. Also, check the pricing tiers. You may be able save more by filling your prescriptions at a preferred pharmacy.4

Understand How Other Benefits Work with Medicare

It’s important to understand how Medicare will coordinate with other health insurance you may have. For instance, maybe you have coverage through your spouse’s insurance plan. If you want dual coverage, a Coordination of Benefits (COB) may work for you. Insure.com explains that the COB simply “allows you to have multiple health plans.”5 The primary payer first pays its share of the costs, and the secondary payer will pay toward the remaining amount. Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of dual insurance plans with your advisor!

Review the Plan Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)

In September, you’ll receive the ANOC — a document mailed by your insurance company that explains all of the changes to your Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan for the upcoming year. The ANOC will compare current benefits alongside benefits for the following year. You’ll want to check on updated items like changes to benefits, network providers, the list of covered drugs and pricing tiers, monthly premiums and the maximum out-of-pocket limit. By reviewing the ANOC, you can be well-informed and prepared to make any necessary changes during the Annual Enrollment Period (Oct. 15th – Dec. 7th).

Review the Medicare & You 2021 Handbook

If there’s one thing we all understand about Medicare — it’s that understanding it can be difficult. The best way to decide what plan or changes are right for you is to consult with a Medicare advisor. But first, it can help to review the Medicare & You 2021: The Official U.S. Government Medicare Handbook.6 This resource contains everything you need to know about Medicare. You can refer back to it as you work with your advisor to review all of your options. For additional information, “Get What’s Yours for Medicare: Maximize Your Coverage, Minimize Your Costs7 is also a great read.

Choosing a Medicare can be a long, arduous and confusing process. Take a breather and give yourself time to reflect on your lifestyle, health, medical needs, finances and future before you rush into signing up for a plan or making a change. Then an insurance professional will be able to walk you through the pros and cons of options that work best for your situation and retirement plan.

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1https://www.statista.com/statistics/200962/percentage-of-americans-covered-by-medicare
2https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/2019-medicare-advantage-and-part-d-prescription-drug-program-landscape
3 https://medicaresupp.org/medicare-supplement-statistics/
4 https://www.aetnamedicare.com/en/understanding-medicare/questions-to-ask-before-choosing-plan.html
5 https://www.insure.com/health-insurance/how-coordination-of-benefits-works

The material presented here is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be used as financial, investment, or legal advice.