A new year inevitably means new changes to Medicare. Beneficiaries who are already receiving Medicare benefits tend to expect costs such as premiums, deductibles, and copays to fluctuate each year but sometimes there are also legislative changes. Each year, Congress votes on changes to various aspects of Medicare that reach beyond costs alone. Here are the 2019 changes you can expect to see from the ever-evolving program of Medicare.
Cost Plans Are Phasing Out
If you’ve never heard of Medicare Cost Plans, you are not alone! Medicare originally created Cost Plans as an option for beneficiaries who lived in rural counties where there were not at least two competing Medicare Advantage plans. Fortunately for the folks in rural areas, Medicare Advantage plans have made their way into just about every area of the country.
Whenever an area develops at least two Medicare Advantage plans, the cost plans there are eliminated. This affected hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries for 2019.
Cost plan beneficiaries either changed to a Medicare Advantage plan or went back to Original Medicare and added a Medigap plan. If they took no action during the Annual Election Period, they were auto-enrolled in the Medicare Advantage plan that was to replace the Cost plan they were enrolled in.
Try Before You Buy is Back
Normally, when you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you are locked in until the following AEP (Annual Election Period). However, the Open Enrollment period is back, allowing you to try your Medicare Advantage plan before committing to it for an entire year.
The Open Enrollment runs from January 1st until March 31st. During this time, you can change Medicare Advantage plans or drop your plan and return to Original Medicare for your care. If you choose the second option, you can apply for a Medigap plan to supplement your Original Medicare. Just remember, you may have to answer health questions on your Medigap application, so you shouldn’t cancel your current coverage until you know you’ve been approved for your new Medigap plan.
Medicare Advantage Plans Can Allow New Benefits
Medicare Advantage plans are required to offer at least the same coverage that Original Medicare does. However, more times than not, the carriers add on extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover to incentivize people to enroll. Examples of extra benefits that Medicare Advantage plans often include are dental, vision, and hearing coverage.
At the start of this year, Medicare has begun to allow carriers to offer home health care services as an added benefit on their Medicare Advantage plans. Services like in-home custodial care, home modifications, and adult day care can be seen in some Medicare Advantage plans’ list of benefits.
Notice that not all Medicare Advantage plans will offer these new allowed benefits immediately in 2019. However, in the future, we might see more plans join in on this change.
The Donut Hole Has Become More Affordable
In the past, the Part D coverage gap, commonly known as the donut hole, has been something people dread entering. Now, you can worry a little less as the donut hole has become a little more affordable.
Before now, after you and the carrier spent a total of $3,750, you’d enter the donut hole and would have to pay more for your prescriptions. For generics, you’d have to pay 44% of the cost and 35% of the cost for brand-name drugs.
However, in 2019, once you and the carrier have spent $3,820, you will only have to pay 37% for generics and 25% for brand-name drugs.
Medicare Launched an App
Because we are in the digital age and apps are a part of life, Medicare has created an app. Their new app will make it easier for you to figure out if your procedure or service is covered by Medicare.
This means anytime you are in the doctor’s office and your doctor recommends a certain procedure during your appointment, you can quickly check your phone to make sure Medicare will cover it before having the procedure.
You can visit the app store and search “What’s Covered” and download this free app today.
Since Medicare changes in some way every year, you can expect there will be more changes announced before 2020 arrives. Try to be aware of Medicare’s changes each year as they may affect your coverage.