QUESTION: Should I stay with my insurance for 2021?
The 2021 Medicare Insurance Season is officially here! The plans have announced their coverage and begun mailing material to everyone in the form of advertisements. The current insurance plan you have has already sent you material about how your plan will change for 2021. Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has updated their website with the new information for 2021. Exciting times to be sure, at least for me and those that have or help with Medicare.
You are right you do receive a lot of mail about insurance products available. The Insurance companies send out mailings, run commercials, and pay for ads to get your attention and hopefully convince you to inquire about their coverage and enroll for the year of 2021.
The Medicare Plans available in our region has increased significantly. We have two new companies available in 2021 that we have not had before, Aetna Medicare Advantage Plans (both HMO & PPO) and MVP Health Care (HMO-POS & PPO). Both of these companies have offered plans in the counties surrounding our region for a number of years. In order for plans to be available to us, they need to have enough providers available to make them viable options for coverage.
We also have insurance companies we have had for a while that are now offering new options. So our total available plans have jumped from 31 to 46 Medicare Advantage Plans. In Cattaraugus County there are actually 49 plans. Cattaraugus County has an additional Insurance company not sold in Chautauqua County, Fidelis.
There are more HMO’s (Health Maintenance Organization), more HMO-POS (Health Maintenance Organization with Point of Service), and more PPO’s (Preferred Provider Organization) with and without drug coverage.
It is important to remember that with all these Medicare Advantage Plans you must make sure that your providers are in the network. When thinking of providers you currently use this is extremely important, but it is also important to consider providers you might use, like Hospitals, Physical & Occupational Therapists, Labs, and Specialists we may not see regularly.
You also need to review your medications, as these plans almost always include Prescription Drug Coverage. You can buy Medicare Advantage (MA) Plans without Prescription Drug Coverage, but in this situation, you should have coverage for your medications from a creditable source. The most common situation of creditable drug coverage from another source would be VA coverage. For those individuals who get their medications from the VA, they could enroll in a MA plan without drug coverage. Almost everyone else should enroll in a MA plan that includes Prescription Drug coverage which is most of them (36).
You have resources to review these plans and companies. The first I would recommend is www.medicare.gov. This website has become an extremely useful tool to evaluate plans and alternatives. You can create a login and password so that your information is stored and available to you always from anywhere. The 1-800-MEDICARE help line is also available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The staff working can walk you through the alternatives, your medications, and your costs. This is complex information, so can be hard to follow and retain, but their help line can offer useful information. This helpline is available all the time for all issues relating to Medicare coverage of any possible topic.
The insurance companies and Brokers that sell insurance are also resources. It is important to remember they can only answer questions related to products they sell. There are also organizations like Office for the Aging, Southwestern Independent Living Center, and Senior Life Matters that can help.
You have from October 15 to December 7 to review and enroll in your product of choice for it to begin January 1. So get started and see what is exciting in 2021!