Medicare Enrollees Have a Big Decision to Make

Millions of seniors rely on Medicare to cover their health-related needs. But Medicare offers different types of coverage, and choosing the right plan could spell the difference between reasonably affording healthcare in retirement and struggling to keep up with it.

Meanwhile, we're only a few weeks away from the start of Medicare's open-enrollment period. Each year, current enrollees have the option to make changes to their coverage starting October 15 through December 7. And that's an opportunity you don't want to pass up.

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Should you change your Medicare coverage?

Medicare enrollees have the option to choose their own Part D drug plan, as well as a Medicare Advantage plan as an alternative to original Medicare. If you're already enrolled in one of these plans, you may be inclined to keep the same coverage in place for 2023. But before you make that call, you may want to ask yourself these questions:

1. Am I struggling to afford my healthcare costs?

Many seniors are limited in income and struggling with rising costs due to inflation. If that's your situation -- say, you're mostly living on Social Security and your benefits just aren't holding up well -- then it's important to make every dollar count. If you've been buckling under the weight of sky-high copays, then it may be time to look into a new Medicare plan.

2. Am I struggling to find in-network providers I like?

When you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you're generally limited to a specific (and sometimes narrow) network of providers, the same way you are with private health insurance you commonly get through an employer. If you've been having a hard time finding providers that are located conveniently to you, then that alone is a good reason to look at switching plans.

3. Is my plan changing?

You may be content with your Part D or Advantage plan right now. But pay attention to changes your plan may be undergoing.

If you haven't received an annual notice of change from your plan administrator by now, it should arrive soon. From there, you can see what your plan will cost and cover in 2023, and that should help you determine whether to keep your current plan or replace it with a new one.

4. Are my needs changing?

It may be that your plan is staying the same, but your situation isn't. If your medications have changed, or if you've developed a new condition, then it could pay to see if there's a better Part D or Advantage plan out there for you.

Many Medicare Advantage plans offer supplementary benefits you won't find with original Medicare. If you're diagnosed with diabetes, for example, you may be eligible for certain meal benefits through your Advantage plan that can help you better manage your condition.

It pays to do your research

Given the extent to which healthcare costs can eat away at your retirement income, it's important to have the right coverage in place. And open enrollment is your chance to make changes that benefit you tremendously in 2023.

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