Medicare Advantage plans can save older Americans money, but difficulty choosing among the many available plans often prevents them from realizing substantial cost-savings.

 Did you know Medicare’s annual election period is just around the corner, October 15 through December 7, to be precise? Now is the time to evaluate your options. Should you stick with your current plan, or is it time to make a change? Would you be better off using Medicare classic or is a Medicare Advantage Plan the e-ticket?

This is not planning that you should take lightly, especially when it comes to Medicare Advantage plans. According to a recent article on MarketWatch many seniors simply end up paying too much. Why? Because they either didn’t take the time to evaluate their options, or they didn’t understand the consequences of their decision.

About 1 in 4 of all Medicare recipients is signed up through a Medicare Advantage plan – about 11.7 million Americans – and for good reason. Under the right circumstances a Medicare Advantage plan can be much cheaper than pairing Medicare classic with Medigap and prescription drug plans. You just have to choose wisely.

Plans vary in many ways, some great and some small, and, without realizing it, you could choose a plan that makes your prescriptions cost several times what another plan would offer. The MarketWatch article’s most telling example is that “people in one Georgia zip code who take 70 mg tablets of osteoporosis drug Fosamax once daily may have annual expenses ranging from $2,661 to $9,032 — depending on which Medicare Advantage plan they pick.”

I can understand and appreciate that it’s easy to get confused. You can easily suffer option overload, especially for the 25% of the nation that has 30 or more plan options. To narrow things down, keep a few things in mind. First, how important is your doctor to you? Advantage plans don’t let you choose your doctor. Why? They work as managed-care policies, either health maintenance organizations (HMOs) or preferred provider organizations (PPOs), and specify the networks. So, if you like your own doctor, then you might consider only those plans where your doctor is within the plan network. Realize, however, that keeping your own doctor may come at a price. When it comes to cost, the second and most important detail after choice of doctor, you want to keep updated and run the numbers every year. Plans can change every year by tweaking co-payments here or altering premiums there, not to mention the fact that you might find yourself taking new prescriptions year to year. You need to examine all the changes and actual prices for your prescriptions to get a true picture of your true costs. By the way, when comparing costs, the Medicare website can be helpful with its plan finder tool.

Reference: MarketWatch (September 2, 2011) “Got Medicare? You May Be Paying Too Much

 

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