October 10, 2016

Medicare Plan Changes During Open Enrollment Oct. 15-Dec. 7 Offer Best Time To Reduce Costs, Allsup Reports

New Medicare plan options for 2017 available for review Oct. 1

Belleville, Illinois — Oct. 11, 2016 — Medicare open enrollment is the prime opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries to take steps to reduce their healthcare costs in the coming year, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of Medicare plan selection services.

From Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, all Medicare beneficiaries have a window to evaluate their coverage and review their Medicare plan options for 2017. Participants can make changes to their Medicare coverage such as changing their Medicare Advantage plan or Part D prescription drug plan. In 2016, participants could choose from an average of 19 Medicare Advantage plans, 26 prescription drug plans, and 16 Medicare Advantage-Part D plans nationwide, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Higher premiums and other Medicare plan changes can end up costing you more, so you want to take a close look at the plan you have now and your options for next year,” said Aaron Tidball, manager of Allsup Medicare Advisor®.

Allsup Medicare Advisor® provides a range of Medicare plan selection assistance with Medicare Advantage plans, Part D prescription drug plans, and Medigap, or supplemental coverage. The service, available in all 50 states, offers a comparative, objective analysis of plans and costs, and serves as a trusted resource for beneficiaries and their financial advisors and caregivers.

Earlier this year, the Boards of Trustees for the Medicare program said they expected higher Medicare Part B premium costs in 2017. “Part B premium changes will depend in part on the effects of inflation and a possible cost-of-living-adjustment, or COLA, with Social Security for 2017,” Tidball explained.

Medicare plan selections made during annual enrollment will take effect Jan. 1, 2017.

What To Expect: Medicare Plans In 2017

About 57 million people are enrolled in Medicare. Following are factors that may influence those changing their Medicare plans for 2017.

  • Part D prescription drug plans. Out-of-pocket costs will shift for prescription drug coverage. The Part D initial deductible will increase by $40 to $400 in 2017. Drug cost sharing during catastrophic coverage will be the greater of $3.30 or 5 percent for generic or preferred drugs (multi-use source) and the greater of $8.25 or 5 percent for all other drugs in 2017. Premiums are expected to remain stable in 2017 at $34 per month for a basic Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, according to CMS. In addition to costs, beneficiaries should look for changes to the drugs covered under the plans they are considering for 2017.
  • The drug “donut hole.” The prescription drug gap is important for several million people who will have added out-of-pocket costs. In 2017, the gap begins when the beneficiary reaches the initial coverage limit of $3,700 and ends when they have spent $4,950. (These are increases of $390 and $100, respectively.) Catastrophic coverage begins at this point. During the donut hole, all costs are covered by the individual, Tidball said. However, they receive discounts of 60% on brand name drugs and 51% on generic drugs while in the donut hole.
  • Medicare Part B premiums. Earlier this year, the Medicare Trustees report indicated premiums are likely to increase at least for a share of Medicare beneficiaries. Those most likely to be affected include new enrollees in 2017, those who pay higher premiums due to income, and those billed directly for their Part B premium. There is a hold harmless provision affecting Medicare Part B premiums, which means if Social Security beneficiaries do not see an income adjustment in 2017, their Part B premium cannot increase, Tidball explained. Part B premiums are expected to be announced in October.
  • Medicare Advantage plans. The market for Medicare Advantage plans changes every year, with some plans entering and others leaving, and provisions and costs changing. Beneficiaries can work with a Medicare plan selection service to see if they have any newer, less costly options for 2017. Tidball said plans should be reviewed for their premiums, deductibles, co-sharing and co-pays for items such as medical procedures, tests and drug formularies.

The Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) or Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from existing Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plan providers typically are distributed by Wednesday, Sept. 30.

“The Medicare plan notices you receive by October 1st should explain whether you’ll have higher costs with your existing plan, so take a close look,” Tidball said. “It doesn’t hurt to shop around the Medicare plans where you live and see if another plan is better for your budget and healthcare needs.”

To request information from an Allsup Medicare Advisor specialist, call (866) 521-7655 or visit our Allsup Medicare Advisor web page.

Written by

Rebecca Ray