(BPT) - As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, personal health is top of mind for many Americans. Now more than ever, it is critically important to ensure you have the best health coverage for 2021. For many older Americans and those with certain disabilities, that includes Medicare coverage.
In California, there are 4.5 million people enrolled in Medicare, the federal health insurance program for those 65 and older. This number continues to rise as the population ages. Research shows California’s older adult population will nearly double by 2030.
Now is the time! The Annual Enrollment Period runs now through December 8
With only a couple weeks left in the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), now is the time to select a plan or make changes to your current Medicare plan to address your changing needs. While the process can be confusing at times, especially for those who may be new to Medicare, it is critical to review the options before the deadline.
“It’s important to note that you will not get an email or communication telling you it’s time to sign up for Medicare,” says Karen Johnson, Medicare Officer for Health Net and WellCare of California, wholly owned subsidiaries of Centene Corporation. “Therefore, it’s critical to be proactive. Remind your loved ones to take steps to research and investigate their eligibility and options.”
Johnson recommends the first step should be to find out if you qualify for Medicare. Then, it is time to find the right plan.
In California, plans like Health Net and WellCare offer Medical Advantage plans that feature:
- More benefits over and above traditional Medicare;
- Additional savings to people who have a lower income; and,
- Help coordinating critical care to stay healthy now and throughout the year.
“The number of Americans applying for a Medicare Advantage plan is increasing 17% to 20% each year,” said Johnson. “When given the option, many people choose a Medicare Advantage plan because of the value and added benefits.”
For those consumers who are still unsure about their Medicare options, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Star Ratings report is a great resource. Each year, CMS publishes this annual report to help Medicare beneficiaries make informed decisions when selecting a health plan.
Medicare plans are ranked on a scale of one to five stars, with five stars representing the highest level of quality. A number of factors ranging from quality of care to customer service and experience determines the annual ratings.
In California, Health Net and WellCare are highly rated plans, which have received 4 Stars or higher for the past three rating years.
The right research means the right coverage
Overall, Johnson suggests these simple tips when researching Medicare coverage:
- Sit down with a trusted family member or friend. Talk with them about their experience.
- Search online for a licensed insurance advisor in California. They can help you evaluate your situation and options. These advisors can represent many plans and be objective.
- Visit Medicare.gov for trustworthy information, and use their PlanFinder tool to compare plans to see what makes sense for you.
Most importantly, take your time.
Making smart choices about your Medicare options takes time and research. However, the right decision can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars next year.
It is worth considering every option before the Dec. 8 deadline, and making a few small changes could give you peace of mind and potential savings in the coming year.