Medicare Open Enrollment 2019

Medicare Open Enrollment 2019. Shop Medicare supplement plans and Part D. New, lower Medigap premiums. Are higher drug costs coming in 2019?

Who is invited? Who should stay home?

Can anyone help navigate the Medicare maze?

 

Medicare Open Enrollment 2019

So much information. So much confusion. Medicare Open Enrollment is not for everyone, and certainly not for the faint of heat.

If you think you already have all the answers, don’t read this post. If you believe Medicare open enrollment is for everyone you will probably learn something.

Medicare AEP is not a casual stroll. For most people, this is the only time you can change your Part D drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan.

Make a mistake and you will have to live with that decision for a year.

 

Be Prepared

Before you enter the annual election period, do this.

  • Make a list of all doctors including name, address, phone.
  • List all area hospitals, especially the ones you have used.
  • Make a list of all medications including dosage, refills, prescribing doctor and pharmacy.

Be aware of the donut hole and look for ways to avoid that trap. Make use of generics and off plan purchases.

Look for FDA approved generics and ask your doctor before making a change.

 

Part D Jungle

If renewing, get your drug list ID and password date from your last drug plan finder.

If renewing, study your ANOC for changes.

Use Medicare.gov for reviewing Advantage and drug plan options.

Avoid using Medicare.gov for PDP comparisons prior to October 25.

 

Review Medicare Supplement Options

Medicare.gov and the GA DOI site is essentially useless when comparing Medicare supplement options.

Most Medigap quote engines only list a handful of options and rarely have plans with the best value

Many quoting sites will sell your information to numerous agents; some don’t provide instant quotes

Never put anything on auto-renew unless you like unpleasant surprises.

 

Understand the Differences

Both Medigap and Advantage plans cover the same types of medical treatment, but what you pay out of pocket for your care, and where you receive your care, is very different.

Advantage plans are managed care plans. Some are PPO, some are HMO. In 2018 about half the plans are HMO with the balance being PPO.

If you receive non-emergency out of network care under a PPO you may have higher copay’s and deductibles. Your max OOP may also be higher. Some plans do not cap out of network charges.

Non-emergency out of network care charges may be denied if you have an HMO.

 

Medicare Advantage Considerations and Cancer

In 2018 most Advantage plans issued in Georgia limit your out of pocket for approved in network health care expenses to $6700.

The American Cancer Society tells us that more than half the 1.4 million new cancer diagnoses occur in people age 65 and older. Roughly 20% of retiree deaths are a result of cancer. Medicare pays for almost half of the $74 billion spent on cancer treatment. The elderly account for 70% of cancer deaths each year.

Some cancer centers, such as Mayo Clinic and MD Anderson do not participate in Medicare Advantage plans.

Not all cancer responds to chemotherapy, but 80% of cancers are treated with chemo. Those treatments occur in an outpatient setting and are covered under Medicare Part B.

Chemotherapy drugs administered in a doctor’s office or clinic normally fall under Part B. Medication from a retail pharmacy or by mail fall under your PDP.

This is why most of us chose a Medicare supplement plan in 2018. Bob Vineyard, independent Medicare insurance broker in Georgia, can explain your Georgia Medicare insurance options and will allow you to decide.

We represent several carriers including Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross, Humana and more.

According to the Mayo clinic, “new cancer treatments are routinely priced at over $100,000 per year of treatment.”

5 Medicare Open Enrollment Tips You Must Know

Understand how Medicare works. Open enrollment only comes around once a year. Take advantage of this time to review all your options.
#GeorgiaMedicarePlans #GAMedigapQuotes #Turning65
How does Medicare work? Open enrollment 2018

 

Free and Low Cost Prescription Drugs

Medicare resource for free and low cost prescription drugs. Are you 65 or older and can’t afford your medications? Paying too much for generics? Medicare’s annual election period, commonly referred to as open enrollment, is the only time of year when anyone can change their Medicare Part D plan.How to find free and low cost prescription drugs

Many seniors mistakenly believe Medicare open enrollment allows them to change their Medicare supplement plan without answering health questions. The truth is, you can drop your existing Medigap plan and purchase a new one any time of year, as long as you can pass medical underwriting.

The cost of prescription medications has steadily risen since 2006 when Medicare Part D was created. Some generic drugs that were once considered affordable are now out of reach. Many of these medications now reach $200 or more.

Help is on the way.

 

How to Find Low Cost or Free Prescription Drugs

Finding low cost or free medications can be challenging if you don’t know where to look.

For many, an even bigger challenge is finding a Medicare prescription drug plan that is right for you. Fortunately there are many articles and sites on the internet providing a treasure trove of information, if you only knew where to look.

One such site is VeryWell, a health and information site owned by the folks at About.com. Earlier this year they published an article titled Stores that Offer Free and Low Cost Prescription Drugs.

We found the page while searching for one of our Medicare clients that was having trouble paying for her medications. She has Part D, but that was not enough. VeryWell’s article listed national and regional chain stores where you can save a lot of money on prescription drugs. Here is a partial list.

  • Costco
  • Kroger
  • Publix
  • Walmart
  • Sam’s

Warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s allow anyone to purchase prescription drugs even if they are not members. The hope is visitors will see other things where they can save money and will purchase a membership.

Costco also has a branded Visa card with an annual cash back reward for purchases at Costco including gasoline. The card can be used anywhere so your annual “dividend” can multiply with almost every purchase.

 

Rising Medicare Supplement Rates

Many retirees on a fixed income are also finding their Medigap premiums rising to the point where budgets are squeezed. Georgia Medicare plans offers a free, no obligation way to shop and compare Georgia Medigap rates in the comfort of your home.

Using our search engine you can compare about 30 popular plans, compare benefits and rates side by side.

We also offer a more comprehensive research report showing over 200 Georgia Medicare supplement plans and rates.

Your information is never sold. There is never any charge for the report. We do hope to earn your business and believe many will appreciate our no pressure approach.

 

Even More Ways to Find Low Cost Drugs

For over 20 years we have shown our clients how to save money on prescription drugs. Many drug discount plans are worthless and often you will pay a higher price than you normally would by just paying cash.

GoodRx is an exception to the rule.

Last year I needed to refill a prescription for Clobetasol to tame the itch of eczema. A tube normally lasts about 18 months and it normally is less than $20.

However I was shocked to learn the price with my Part D drug plan was going to be $92.

I left the store without taking my prescription with me. By using the GoodRx drug finder I was able to purchase the cream at a competing pharmacy for only $27!

Another resource is Blue Sky Drugs, a reputable Canadian pharmacy. Current pricing for Clobetasol is even lower than GoodRx.

 

How to Find Inexpensive Prescription Medications

Many people who live in rural areas may only have a few places where they can fill their presciptions. The folks at NeedyMeds offer a wealth of information when searching for free and low cost prescription drugs. They also have PAP’s (patient assistant programs) for many of the newer, high priced brand names.

The NeedyMeds $4 Prescription Drug Finder lists savings plans in alphabetical order by pharmacy name.

Some places, such as Publix grocery stores, offer FREE prescription medications.

Below is a partial list of free and low cost prescription drug resources. Grocery chains

  • Publix
  • Kroger
  • Winn Dixie

Many national drug stores have their own promotional plans for saving money on generic drugs.

  • CVS / Target
  • Rite Aid
  • Walgreens

Another resource for locating low cost prescription drugs in the US and Canada is Pharmacy Checker. Enter the name of your medication in the box and start the search.

If you need or want to save money on your medications (who doesn’t?) there are plenty of ways to lower your costs.

Our FREE annual review during Medicare open enrollment saves our clients hundreds or even thousands of dollars vs. their current drug plan. Two of our Medicare supplement clients will save over $4,000 next year by switching Part D plans and pharmacy’s.

We can’t guarantee you will save that much but many times the drug plan savings alone is enough to cover the cost of your Medicare supplement premium.

Need to save money on prescription drugs? Ask us. We can help.

 

#FreeLowCostPrescriptionDrugs #MedicareSupplementRates  #MedicarePartD  #MedicareOpenEnrollment

 

 

 

Medicare Open Enrollment 2019

Medicare 2019 Open Enrollment starts on October 15th and ends on December the 7th. Who is affected? How do you decide what to keep and what to change? Where can you get answers to your questions?Medicare Open Enrollment 2018

Don’t get distracted by the hype.

During this open enrollment many will want to offer advice but how do you know their opinions are useful? Can you really get solid, unbiased advice or are you at the mercy of scoundrels?

Let’s set the record straight and give you some guidelines about what you need to know and how to sort out good advice from bad.

Five Medicare Open Enrollment Tips You MUST Know

Medicare Open Enrollment 2019 – A Journey with a Purpose

Let’s start with the basics of Medicare 2019 open enrollment. One area that creates more confusion than anything else is changing Medicare supplement plans.

You can change your Medigap plan any time of the year. The annual enrollment period does not include Medicare supplement plans. Only Medicare Advantage and Part D drug plans are included in open enrollment.

There is generally only one time when you can buy a Medigap plan without answering health questions. For most folks that is when they turn 65 and enroll in Medicare for the first time. Once you have been enrolled in Medicare Part B for 6 months you can change plans as long as you pass through underwriting.

If you have questions about your ability to change plans, give us a call. In less than 5 minutes you can learn if you are healthy enough to be approved or not. We will also be glad to quote Medicare supplement rates over the phone and email you a Medigap rate report like this one.

If you can change your supplement plan at any time of the year, what do I need to know about Medicare Open Enrollment 2018?

Medicare open enrollment allows you to change your Part D prescription drug plan, or your Medicare Advantage plan. Neither require medical underwriting with one exception. If you are currently in renal failure you cannot change Advantage plans.

At Georgia Medicare Plans our focus is strictly on finding the best Medigap coverage that fits your needs and budget. We also offer detailed advice on Part D and will guide you through the enrollment process.

We do not offer Medicare Advantage plans but we will refer you to an associate if you are convinced Advantage plans are right for you.

 

Medicare Drug Plans are Confusing

The most difficult part of my work is helping clients find the right drug plan that delivers the best value. Let’s look at how I handled a review for a new client.

Bill currently takes two different medications to control his cholesterol, Ezetimibe and Xarelto. While was covered under a group health insurance plan his Xarelto copay was $0. That goes away once he is covered by Part D.

Bill likes to take charge of things and his own review of drug plans led him to believe his best option was a plan with a monthly premium of $55.

I felt he could do better.

Both of these drugs are expensive. Ezetimibe has a retail price of $300 for a 30 day supply; Xarelto is $400.

2019 update – Ezetimibe is currently $12 with a GoodRx discount. 

 

Avoiding the Donut Hole

My analisys indicates he will enter the donut hole by the 4th month and his out of pocket drug costs will exceed $350 per month.

My suggestion was to drop Ezetimibe from his drug plan evaluation and purchase outside of Part D using GoodRx. His copay would be about the same as his drug plan but by removing the drug from the formulary calculation he is able to delay entering the donut hole to month 7 vs. the 4th month.

Can he avoid the donut hole completely?

As it turns out he can.

He can buy Ezetimibe through Blue Sky and lower his costs even more than using GoodRx. Before he enters the donut hole his Xarelto copay is $46. Once in the donut hole his copay more than triples. Copay’s for all drugs, not just the expensive ones, increases while in the donut hole. He can avoid the donut hole completely by purchasing his meds (except Ezetimibe) through the drug plan and then buying Xarelto from Blue Sky right before entering the donut hole.

Combining these suggestions he can choose a drug plan with a $22 monthly premium vs the $55 plan he would have picked on his own. Bill saves over $500 in prescription drug costs.

 

Medicare Drug Plans – Who is Advising You?

Where can you go for help and advice for drug plans during Medicare open enrollment 2018? Let’s run down the list.

  • You can do it on your own
  • You can call 1-800-MEDICARE
  • Ask a friend what they have
  • Choose the same plan you spouse has
  • Talk to a volunteer at Georgia Cares
  • Search online
  • Ask an insurance agent
  • Talk with your hair stylist

Obviously there are many choices but whatever route you take during Medicare open enrollment 2018 make sure you consider all of the following.

  • Start with the Medicare plan finder even if you are going to ask for advice
  • Next, record your Drug List ID number and Password Date for future reference
  • Be sure to consider lower cost generics where possible
  • Make sure you are including the lowest cost participating pharmacy’s*
  • Check generic pricing using GoodRx
  • Also check pricing at a Canadian pharmacy such as Blue Sky
  • Include star ratings in your evaluation
  • Don’t just assume the plan that worked well this year is your best choice for 2018
  • If you use an agent, make sure they are looking at ALL available plans, not just the one that compensates them
  • If you use 1-800-MEDICARE ask if they have suggestions on ways to save by purchasing drugs outside of Part D
  • Sometimes free advice is worth what you paid for it

*In 2017 Walgreen’s often has the lowest prices for medications. If your evaluations for this year did not include Walgeen’s as an option you probably never saw the lowest priced drug plans. Low price pharmacy’s change every year. Make sure you don’t make the same mistake for 2018.

 

Look for Medicare Supplement Premium Savings

At Georgia Medicare Plans we do things other agents fail to do. If an agent fails to offer you a free Medigap rate report are they showing you the best options for you or only the plans that pay them the most money?

Every prospective client receives this report for the plan(s) they are considering. Just ask. It’s that simple. We email your report  for review. Take time to study the report and form your questions. We are happy to help.

You have entered the “No Selling Zone”. Most of all, there is no pressure to buy but we do hope to earn your business. Call or email with questions, when you turn 65 or during the Medicare Open Enrollment 2019 dates.

 

#MedicareOpenEnrollment #MedicarePartD #GeorgiaMedicareSupplementRates #Turning65

Medicare Drug Plan Finder

Using the Medicare Drug Plan Finder can be challenging. You can do it yourself, ask an agent, ask the Medicare drug plan carrier or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

We will show you

  • step by step how to navigate the Medicare Plan Finder site
  • how to compare drug plan results side by side
  • eliminate plans with deductibles
  • choose plans where all your drugs on on the formulary
  • find pharmacy’s with the lowest drug costs
  • where to find the estimated drug copay’s
  • how and where to enroll in a Medicare drug plan
  • compare prices using a discount drug card
  • finding prices at Canadian pharmacy’s

The entire process is more frightening than filling out your taxes but with a little practice you will figure it out. By the time you do it again during the next open enrollment you will have forgotten everything you learned.

So bookmark this page when it is time to renew your plan and you can fly through the process like a pro.

 

We are happy to run reports for our existing Medicare supplement clients.

  • We collect your drug information
  • Run reports for you based on all 24 plans in Georgia
  • Send the reports to you by email complete with a recommendation for the lowest combination of drug plan and pharmacy

Or you can call Medicare.

OK, this may not be as fun as talking with Jake from State Farm but it can still save you money.

jake-from-state-farm

Medicare Drug Plan Finder 2018 Update

As challenging as this process was for 2017, it is even more difficult for 2018 plans.

Drugs on Medicare may show as not on the formulary. Call the carrier and get a different response.

To maximize savings you may need to change pharmacy’s. One client will save almost $4,000 in 2018 by using a different pharmacy!

MAJOR discrepancies in results on Medicare.gov and carrier sites. Calling the carrier can be more confusing. Each time you call you get a different answer.

Good luck!

 

Medicare Drug Plan Finder for the Do It Yourself Person

For those who like to do it themselves here is a step by step guide to using the Medicare Drug Plan Finder.

Click this link to go to the plan finder.

https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/questions/home.aspx

You can also click the General Search image below.

Enter your zip in the box Search. Click Find Plan.

Medicare Drug Plan Finder

 

Select how you get your Medicare coverage.

Most people will select Original Medicare and I Don’t Get Any Extra Help.

medicare-plan-finder-2

Click Continue to Plan Results.

Now the fun starts.

Have all your medicine bottles lined up before moving to the next section.

Medicare drug plan finder

 

Prescription Drugs You Take

Enter the name(s) of each medication, click Find My Drug.

Choose the drug name and dosage you take. Also check off how often filled, quantity and whether you get your drugs at retail or mail order.

Repeat the process for each drug.

Note you can change the dose, add or remove the drug from your list using the buttons.

Make a note of your Drug List ID and Password Date. You will refer back to this in the future.

Then click My Drug List Is Complete.

medicare-plan-finder-3

 

Choose your pharmacy(s).

If you want to compare prices by pharmacy, pick any two.

medicare-plan-finder-4

 

Click Continue to Plan Results

medicare-plan-finder-5

 

Check off Prescription Drug Plans with Original Medicare

Click Continue to Plan Results

The next page should look like this. If it doesn’t you have done something wrong. Go back.

Make sure the results (below) are for the correct year. The image below was taken in October, 2016 so the default is to illustrate the 2017 plans. If you need to view the current year, click that button.

You will notice your Drug List ID and Password Date follow you through the process.

 

medicare-plan-finder-6

 

When you get to the Medicare drug plan page (above), scroll down until you see the options (below)

Select two or three plans that appeal to you, the click Compare Plans

medicare-plan-finder-7

 

The plans you want to compare will appear side by side.

You should use your browser setting to print this page. If you know how to print and save as a PDF you should do so and save it on your computer where you can find it again.

medicare-plan-finder-8

Notice I chose the plan with the lowest drug cost (Envision). The Envision plan has a deductible, so I picked the next lowest cost plan (Silver Script) that does not have a deductible.

Some (but not all) plans do not apply the deductible to tier 1 and tier 2 medications when using a preferred pharmacy. Be sure you know the difference.

Often, but not always, plans that have a deductible will have lower copay’s than plans that do not have a deductible.

 

View Monthly Drug Plan Costs

Scroll down until you see the Estimated Monthly Drug Costs

medicare-plan-finder-9

 

The monthly costs include your premium plus the estimated cost of your drugs. If you go into the donut hole that will appear in the monthly printout (above).

If you want to see the estimated copay for each of your medications, click the View monthly drug cost details by selected drugs link.

medicare-plan-finder-10

 

Note the drug copay’s are estimated and do not reflect higher costs due to deductibles or increased costs when you are in the donut hole.

 

Dig Deeper

If you want to really take this drug plan report for a test drive, check out some other neat things you can do.

Go back to the browser frame where the monthly drug costs are shown side by side. Scroll down until you see this section (below).

medicare-plan-finder-11

 

Note the tier level for each of your drugs. It won’t always be the same from carrier to carrier.

Click Print My Drug List.

Click Print Comparison Report.

The Drug List shows all the drugs you have entered by name, dosage, etc.

The Comparison Report can be customized to show only information that is relevant to your situation.

 

Finding the Lowest Drug Prices

Sometimes you have to work a bit to find the absolute lowest drug costs. There are times when you want to purchase 30 or 90 day supplies at retail. Maintenance drugs may (or may not) be cheaper by mail.

 

Current clients of Georgia Medicare Plans can stop right now.

If you purchased a Medigap plan through us do this.

Email me your Drug List ID and Password Date. Give your current zip code and county of residence. I will run your report (based on your Drug List ID and Password Date) then search for ways to cut your drug costs using mail order and discount cards.

Not a current client? Shameless plug here. Let us help you find the best Medigap plan that fits your needs and budget.

GA Medigap Rates

For next year plans I will only do this from October 1 through November 7. After that date I may not have time to perform this service, so no guarantees.

If you are not a current client, proceed as follows.

 

Your Medicare Drug Plan Finder will show you which plans save money when you order by mail.

But wait, there’s more.

Consider ordering drugs from Canada. We have personally used and recommended Blue Sky for years.

You can also save money by using a drug discount coupon from GoodRx. You have the option of going online and printing out a coupon, downloading an app for your smartphone, or requesting an ID card you can carry in your wallet.

 

Decide How You Want to Purchase Your Drugs

Get a piece of paper.

  • Make 4 columns
  • Write down each drug in column one
  • Enter the cost of the drug using your drug plan – See call the carrier (below)
  • Repeat this process for each drug from Canada and again using GoodRx
  • Go back to your Medicare Drug Plan report and remove the drugs purchased from Canada or using GoodRx
  • Run the report again

If you use insulin, most Canadian pharmacy’s will not ship it to you. Insulin prices in the US, even with a Medicare drug plan or discount card are crazy expensive. We have found one Canadian pharmacy that stocks and ships insulin direct to you.

https://rxcanada4less.com/

Check insulin pricing before enrolling in a Medicare Part D plan.

Now you are ready to sign up for a drug plan.

Almost.

Before you enroll in a plan, call the carrier you think you want to use.

  • Give them a list of all your drugs including dosage
  • Ask them for their preferred pharmacy’s – Compare that to your Medicare report
  • Which drugs (if any) are subject to the deductible (if the plan has a deductible)
  • Ask for the initial coverage copay for each drug
  • If a deductible applies, ask for the cost with and without the deductible
  • Ask for your cost if/when you are in the donut hole
  • Write all this down
  • Do NOT enroll yet – You are still not done

Now that you have the copay for each drug from the carrier you think you want to use, go back to your piece of paper with the drug prices.

 

Enroll in a Medicare Drug Plan

Now that you have all your information it is time to enroll in a drug plan.

  • You can enroll direct with the carrier by clicking the Enroll button on the Medicare site
  • Better suggestion is to call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
  • 800 MEDICARE is open 24/7 except federal holidays – You can even call at 3AM
  • You can also enroll direct with a carrier by phone or on their site

I have been advising clients to enroll via 1-800-MEDICARE for years and have had no complaints. When you follow my step by step instructions you can be enrolled in a drug plan in less than 15 minutes.

No hassle. No sales pitches.

 

Finding a Medicare Drug Plan

It will probably take you longer to read this post than it will to use the plan finder. With over 400 clients spread all over the state of Georgia, I don’t have the time to help everyone the way I would like to. By asking you, my client, to do the front end work I can still help others find a Medigap plan that fits their needs and budget without totally abandoning my existing clients.

Here are the steps you need to take to use the Medicare Drug Plan Finder

  • Go to the plan finder
  • Enter your zip and check off how you get your Medicare benefits
  • Input your current medications
  • Choose a pharmacy
  • Review the results

If you take fewer than 5 medications it will take you about 15 minutes to get results. More than 5 will take a bit longer.

If you find this helpful, share this link with your friends. Thanks, and have a great day!

 

#MedicareDrugPlanFinder #GoodRx  #MedicareOpenEnrollment #DrugsFromCanada #GeorgiaMedicarePlans #GAMedigapRates 

Medicare Open Enrollment 2016

What is Medicare open enrollment 2016? When can I change my Medicare supplement plan? How do I find a better rate without going online and having my phone ring off the hook?

Medicare open enrollment

Isn’t this the same as turning 65? Can’t I change my Medicare supplement plan without going through underwriting?

 

What is Medicare Open Enrollment?

Medicare annual open enrollment period starts on October 15th and ends on December 7th. During that time you can

  • Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another one
  • Change your Part D drug plan

You can change your existing Medicare supplement plan at any time of the year but you may be required to pass medical underwriting.  If you have an existing Medicare Advantage plan, and would rather have original Medicare and a Medigap plan you can enroll in a Medigap plan subject to medical underwriting.

 

Is Medicare Open Enrollment the Same as Turning 65?

Short answer is not.

Turning 65 and enrolling in Medicare Part B for the first time allows you a 6 month window to enroll in any Medigap plan. Never any underwriting. They can’t ask your height and weight. What medications you take.

All of those are off limits.

But open enrollment is different.

If you have original Medicare and a supplement plan you can change drug plans without underwriting.

You can also improve your Medicare supplement plan and look for lower rates. But you can do that any time. Open enrollment is not the best time to change Medicare supplement plans. If you have been on Medicare Part B more than 6 months medical underwriting is required. That process can take 2 weeks or longer outside of open enrollment. The time frame is a month or longer if you try to change Medigap plans during open enrollment.

How Do I Find the Best Medicare Supplement Rates?

Shopping online is simple, thanks to the internet. But it can also be frustrating. Here is what most people do.

There must be a better way.

  • Go to GA Medigap Quotes
  • Fill in your information
  • Get an instant quote
  • Wait for your personalized quote by email showing Medigap rates you won’t see anywhere else
  • We shop. You compare
  • We take the time to answer all your questions about Medicare, plans, rates, service and so forth..
  • When you pay more you don’t get more. You simply paid too much
  • Our goal is to give you the confidence in knowing you have made the right decision and are not paying too much or buying the wrong plan

How easy is that?

#GAMedigapRates #MedicareSupplementRates #MedicareOpenEnrollment #Turning65