When it comes to Medicare, you better shop around

Dan Gorenstein Oct 15, 2015

Starting Thursday, seniors have a little over seven weeks to enroll in new Medicare plans. Some of those plans cover physicians. Others, like Part D, cover prescription drugs. And then there’s Medicare Advantage, which covers everything.

A new report out this week shows many people will face higher out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions if they stick with what they’ve got. But it’s not easy getting people to shop for insurance.

Take it from Joe Baker, who heads the Medicare Rights Center. Every fall for the past 13 years, he says pretty much the exact same thing: “Consumers should shop around for the coverage they need for the coming year.”

And every fall, Baker believes too few seniors do it. But if price is a motivator, maybe this year is different.

Tricia Neuman at the Kaiser Family Foundation has found the average Part D prescription drug plan premium for 2016 is jumping 13 percent, the biggest hike in six years.

“And look, it’s not just premiums,” said Neuman. “I was helping someone in my own family, and I was shocked to see that her costs could go up as much as $3,000 if she stays in her own plan.”

Bottom line: Medicare enrollees must understand drug prices change year to year, and there can be real differences between plans.

But when nearly a third of Medicare enrollees have a mental or cognitive problem, Neuman wondered how many people will leave money on the table because they just can’t shop.

There’s a lot to navigate when it comes to Medicare. Here are some resources:

 — Medicare Plan Finder can help you compare plans.

 — There’s also a helpline for if you already receive Medicare coverage.

 — You can also check out the Medicare Rights Center, which can answer questions about Medicare benefits, rights and options.



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