Time running out for Medicare open enrollment - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Time running out for Medicare open enrollment

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

Time is running out for those looking to potentially make changes to their Medicare coverage for 2019. 

The open enrollment period for health care coverage for next year ends Friday, December 7th. If you haven't yet, now is the perfect time to take a and look at a Medicare plan to make sure it's the right fit. 

According to Medicare Resources, during the annual enrollment period, you can make changes to various aspects of your coverage.

  • You can switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage or vice versa.
  • You can also switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, or from one Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan to another.
  • And if you didn't enroll in a Medicare Part D plan when you were first eligible, you can do so during the general open enrollment, although a late enrollment penalty may apply.

United Healthcare Medicare & Retirement Health Plan CEO Rick Dunlop told 21 News that its important for those who are already enrolled in plans to look over their options. 

"Its the one time of year when medicare beneficiaries across the country have an opportunity to upgrade their benefits," said Dunlop. "So I always encourage them to do a little shopping because this is their opportunity to treat themselves in the way of benefit."

Not only is it a good opportunity to upgrade benefits, but it's also a chance to look at how plans have changed.  

"Every year there's new guidelines that change, there's new rules," Dunlop explained

Which means that insurance providers reassess every year, tweaking the plans and the benefits. Changes can range from provider to provider and can affect everything from premiums, deductibles, co-pays, which services are covered, what doctors are within the plan, and even prescription drug prices. 

In addition, Dunlop say that users should look at whether the needs of their household have stayed the same. 

Dunlop said, "Everybody's health status and their financial circumstances and their goals for their wellness change so this gives them the opportunity to find the best plan that's going to meet those changing needs."

Experts say those looking to enroll in a new plan, or change their plan, should consider whether they've been put on new medication recently that will raise their prices, whether they anticipate any major surgeries or medical procedures in the next year, whether they're getting married, adding families members to the plans, moving, or any other major planned changes in the lives in 2019. 

Dunlop explained that when it comes to healthcare many of the Advantage plan providers are changing the way they think about health insurance. 

"A long time ago it might've been the case that you would just look at just paying the claims and worrying about the medical, but now we've found that in this day and age, especially with medicare beneficiaries, is that it has almost as much to do with their being challenged mentally and also social isolation becomes critical," said Dunlop. "And so we have to think from a health and wellness standpoint how can we care for the person more comprehensively because its so much more important than just the health."

Which is part of the reason United has introduced new programs designed to help patients who call in with questions. 

"If you call with question that goes beyond just routine health related questions, we'll handle that," Dunlop explained. "And we just very recently launched a program call Navigate for Me, where an individual who might have a critical care need of some type is assigned a representative so they'll always talk to the same person when they call US."

They've also expanded other programs- like their Renew Active program, which says it helps users "challenge themselves both physically and mentally."

But it's no secret that navigating the process of open enrollment and sorting through all of the factors can be confusing. 

Dunlop said the best advice is to step back and then consider what you need. 

"Take a deep breathe because it doesn't have to be scary, sit down and make a list of things that are very important in terms of physicians and hospitals that they utilize, make a list of all of the prescriptions that they take."

Dunlop says anyone who has concerns can also talk to an insurance broker, who can help walk them through their plan. 

For more information on specific plans from United Healthcare or any provider visit these websites:
United Healthcare

Medicare resources

Official U.S. Government Medicare site

Meanwhile, CNBC reports that a new change in the Medicare system means those who choose their plan by Friday, but later decide it doesn't work well for them will have an opportunity to switch. 

New for 2019: If you pick an Advantage Plan during fall enrollment and realize afterward that it's not a good fit, you can switch to another one or back to original Medicare and a stand-alone Part D prescription plan between Jan. 1 and March 31.

However, in that early year window, you cannot go from one stand-alone drug plan to another, or go from original Medicare to an Advantage Plan.

Also, you can only do one switch during that window. In the current enrollment period, you can change your mind multiple times.

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