Medicare’s annual open enrollment period is in progress through Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. It’s important for all Medicare-eligible university professionals to be aware of the changes in the government’s health care program for 2019 so they can make informed decisions about their Medicare coverage plans before the enrollment period closes. The notable changes include:
Changes in Medicare Advantage
Medicare Advantage -- offered by private insurers and approved by Medicare -- provides coverage often referred to as “gap” coverage for medical appointments and services not associated with a hospital stay, as well as prescriptions. These are among the expenses not covered by Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage functions similarly to an HMO or PPO in that medical services are usually provided by specific hospital or doctor networks.
Hundreds of new plans and providers are available in 2019, so it is important to learn the new options. For example, UnitedHealthcare will offer over-the-counter drug benefits in some plans, providing a preloaded plan debit card that you can use at Walgreens. Virtual visits with providers and transportation to and from doctor’s appointments will be offered in some plans. Some Aetna plans provide transportation benefits and meals after a hospital discharge.
The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (January 1 – February 14 every year) will be replaced with a different arrangement. A new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period will run from January 1 through March 31. During this period, Medicare Advantage enrollees will have the opportunity to:
- Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan, or
- Drop the Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare, Part A and Part B and sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (if returning to Original Medicare).
A common reason professors may want or need to make such a switch is that plans occasionally change their lists of covered medications.
The premiums for Medicare Advantage will cost an average of $28 per month in 2019, down from $29.81 in 2018, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Average Part D Premiums Also Going Down
People whose prescriptions are covered by a Part D plan instead of Medicare Advantage will realize a slight decrease in monthly premium. The average premium is decreasing by $1 per month in 2019, to $32.50.