January – March: One More Medicare Choiceby Denise Early on Dec. 26, 2009, under Health
During Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, January – March, seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans can drop their private plan and go back to Medicare. This is one more choice seniors have concerning their Medicare coverage.
I recently wrote about changes seniors can make between January 1st and March 31st, and I was focused on changing from one Medicare Advantage plan to another. But I neglected to provide an example that some folks might want to consider in early 2010 – going back to Medicare.
Example: Mr. Jones is 67 and has been enrolled in a Medicare Advantage HMO plan since he turned 65. In January he’s thinking this is not the right choice for him because he plans to spend several months outside of Arizona where his Medicare Advantage HMO plan will cover him only in an emergency. He’d like to be able to see doctors when he’s in Massachusetts during the summer, but he can’t do this if he’s enrolled in a Medicare HMO.
If Mr. Jones is relatively healthy, he can apply to any Medicare Supplement company and they will check his medical records to decide if they should take him on. Or, Mr. Jones could apply for AARP’s Medicare Supplement, which takes seniors with no medical questions asked until they are 68.
Once Mr. Jones hears that his Medicare Supplement has been approved, he needs to sign up for a stand-alone Part D plan. Mr. Jones has had a Part D plan as part of his Medicare Advantage plan, so Medicare will allow him to replace that Part D plan with a new stand-alone plan. When Mr. Jones’ Part D application gets to Medicare, Medicare will terminate his Medicare Advantage enrollment and notify his plan. Then Medicare will put his stand-alone Part D information into his record. At the beginning of the next month (February in this case), Mr. Jones will have the following coverage: Medicare as his primary payer; the Medicare Supplement as his secondary payer; and a stand-alone Part D plan for his prescriptions.
This is an important choice for consideration during the Open Enrollment Period (January – March). I have worked with a number of adult children who are taking care of their elderly parents and were confused by all the co-pays involved in Medicare Advantage plans. For simplicity (and better coverage) these caretakers decided they wanted their parents back on Medicare with a Supplement.
Medicare with a Medicare Supplement (and a stand-alone Part D plan) costs more up front, but can be well worth it if a person travels or is a snowbird. And it’s definitely worth it when a person’s medical condition requires lots of doctor visits, ambulance trips, and hospital stays.