Tips for Choosing and Using Your 2016 Medicare Health Plan
Special to The Truth
It’s that time of year
again: The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP) begins
October 15 and runs through December 7. Medicare is a
critical source of health care for millions of Americans,
and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) sets
this time for people to select and make changes to their
plans each year.
As AEP approaches, the old
adage “good health is priceless” remains true. According to
a survey by Cigna, a leading health service company and
Medicare insurance provider, health, well-being and
financial security are strongly linked in the minds of
Americans. Their research shows that many people have
anxiety about their financial health that goes far beyond
making health care benefit choices.
That’s why it’s crucial
Medicare consumers consider their health and budget needs as
they evaluate health care options for 2016.
“Choosing a plan isn’t as
simple as just keeping the one you had last year or looking
only at the monthly premium costs. The goal should be to
choose a plan that best meets your individual needs,” says
Herb Fritch, president of Cigna-HealthSpring, Cigna’s
seniors business unit. “Comparing affordability alongside
the plan’s benefits and services is an important balance.”
To help you choose a plan
and get the most from it, consider these five tips:
1. Make a list of your
priorities and use it to compare plans. Focusing on
prevention? Keeping out-of-pocket costs low? Staying active?
Take time to evaluate plan options according to the health
and financial goals you value most.
2. Be sure your plan
offers comprehensive preventive care benefits and use them.
Many health plans offer preventive health benefits at little
or no cost. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
estimates that 100,000 lives could be saved each year if
everyone received the recommended preventive care.
3. Know your network. Many
plans offer choices with a network of doctors. Choosing
primary care doctors and specialists in network can provide
better communication and care coordination, and keep your
out-of-pocket costs down.
4. Get rewarded for
staying active. Keeping fit is essential to healthy aging.
Original Medicare doesn't cover gym memberships or fitness
programs, but some Medicare Advantage plans offer such
benefits as part of their coverage. Many are free and some
reward you for staying active.
5. Use free resources.
CMS’ Plan Finder helps you compare costs, covered
medications and other items. Many insurance plans offer free
seminars with no obligation to sign up. You can also check
health plans’ websites or call their customer service number
for more information. Local and state agencies on aging also
connect older adults and caregivers with community
resources. Your plan may offer newsletters with helpful
information about your benefits.
As you weigh the options,
Fritch offers this advice: “It’s worth it to take the time
to set your priorities and see how plan benefits stack up.
Only then can you choose a plan that really helps you get
the most from it and reach your goals.”