Lifestyles over 50 Finance & Money
Medicare Open Enrollment for 2018 starts October 15 and remains open until December 7. During this annual enrollment period (AEP) 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.
If you want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must meet some basic criteria.
You must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and B.
You must live in the plan’s service area.
You cannot have End-Stage Renal Disease (some exceptions apply).
2018 Medicare Coverage Changes:
Medicare recipients reaching the donut hole will benefit from better prescription drug discounts. The gap in prescription drug coverage (the donut hole) starts when someone reaches the initial coverage limit ($3,750 in 2018), and ends when they have spent $5,000 (these thresholds are each $50 higher than they were in 2017). For 2018, while in the donut hole, enrollees will pay 35 percent of the cost of brand name drugs (down from 40 percent in 2017) and 44 percent of the cost of generic drugs (down from 51 percent in 2017). The Medicare Part D deductible will be $405 in 2018, up slightly from $400 in 2017.
Medicare Part B premiums will fluctuate again for 2018. In 2017, most Medicare Part B enrollees paid an average of $109/month for their Part B premium, although enrollees with income above $85,000 had higher premiums. But the standard premium for Medicare Part B was $134/month in 2017. The reason most enrollees paid an average of only $109/month was because the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security wasn’t large enough to cover the full increase in Part B premiums.
New income brackets for Part B enrollees with high incomes. For Medicare purposes, “high income” begins at $85,001 for a single individual, and $170,001 for a married couple. Enrollees with income between $85,001 and $107,000 ($170,001 and $214,000 for a married couple) won’t see any changes to their bracket.
Medicare Advantage plans continue to see changes. While healthcare reform is slowly reducing rebates paid to Medicare Advantage plans, these plans continue to be popular. Most people will continue to have dozens of Medicare Advantage plans as well as Part D plans available to them. These providers can change the coverage options they offer from year to year so it’s important to stay up-to-date.
Most Medicare beneficiaries should receive their Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from their existing Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plan providers by Sept. 30. It’s important to carefully review the information sent to you by your plan provider, since this will cover any possible changes. For example, increasing co-pays, changes to drug formularies or changes to treatment coverage. Once open enrollment gets underway, you can make changes that reflect your current health coverage needs.