Every year, Medicare holds an open enrollment period from October 15 through December 7. Open enrollment isn’t just an opportunity for newly eligible seniors to sign-up for Medicare, it’s also for current participants who want to make changes to their existing coverage. Coverage can change in any insurance from year to year and it is important to research your plan compared to the coverage you need for the next year so you can choose the right plan for you during this time.
We find that many of our clients and their loved ones have questions. While you can always learn more on the Medicare website, including using the Medicare tool to research plan benefits, let us share four upcoming program changes to be aware of.
1. Medicare Part B premiums are likely to increase.
Medicare Part B covers medical services, such as X-rays, diagnostic tests, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, renal dialysis, and preventive care. In many ways, Part B works hand-in-glove with Part A hospital coverage, though it does comes at a cost.
Part B participants must pay a monthly premium, and it has been reported that the cost may increase slightly to a “standard premium” price of around $135.50 per month in 2019. An enrolled senior’s “actual premium” cost may vary, however, as it will depend on the cost of living adjustment (COLA) that applies to Social Security benefits next year. Many Part B enrollees have their premiums deducted from their Social Security checks. Higher income Part B enrollees will pay more, while Medicaid will cover Part B premiums for some low-income enrollees.
2. “Donut hole” is eliminated for prescription brand name drugs.
For years, there’s been a gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage that starts when a participant reaches their initial coverage limit (about $3,820 in 2019) and ends when they’ve spent about $5,100.
That gap is sometimes called the “donut hole,” and it’s been effectively eliminated for brand names drugs. Starting in 2019, enrollees will only pay 25 percent of brand name drug costs while in the previous coverage gap, which has been the long-term target goal of Congress, and 37 percent for generic drugs.
3. A new premium bracket for high-income Part B and Part D enrollees.
It may not affect most Medicare seniors, but in 2019 it is anticipated that individuals with an income of $500,000 or more, or $750,000 for married couples, will pay higher monthly premiums for Part B medical services coverage and Part D prescription drug coverage.
4. New Medicare ID cards to combat identity theft.
Don’t be surprised if your new Medicare ID card looks different next year. In an effort to combat identity theft and fraud, all cards will now have randomly generated ID numbers rather than Social Security numbers, effective April 2019.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers for you. Do not wait to get the answers you need on your Medicare coverage so that you can find the right plan for you during Medicare Open Enrollment. Do you have questions in this or any legal issue? Do not hesitate to contact our office.