You can expect Medicare to change each year. Premiums, deductibles, and copays are just some of the changes that have recently occurred when January 1st rolled around. Other changes dealing with plans and their benefits could happen from year to year.
This year, Medicare, of course, updated prices. They also did other things, like allowed new benefits, discontinued plans, and got with the 21st century in terms of technology.
Here are some of the main changes in Medicare this 2019.
The Donut Hole Got A Little Less Scary
Many beneficiaries dread entering the donut hole because the cost of their prescriptions increases so much. However, in 2019, you can breathe a little easier.
Although you will always have some expenses in the donut hole, you won’t be paying as much per drug while in it. In the 2018 donut hole, you paid 44% for generic prescriptions and 35% for brand-name prescriptions.
In the new and improved donut hole, you’ll pay 37% for generic prescriptions and 25% for brand-name prescriptions.
Medicare Advantage Plans Offer New Benefits
Medicare Advantage plans are required to offer at least as good as coverage as Original Medicare does. However, that’s not to say that they can’t offer additional coverage or extra benefits.
Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits like dental, vision, and even drug coverage. In 2019, however, Medicare Advantage plans include some supplemental home health care as an added benefit. This may include things like adult daycare services, transportation to medical appointments, home modifications, and even in-home meal delivery.
Not all Medicare Advantage plans will offer these new benefits right away. However, if all goes well, perhaps more plans will offer them next year.
Most Medicare Cost Plans Will No Longer Be Available
Medicare Cost plans were available in areas where the Medicare beneficiaries didn’t have at least two competing Medicare Advantage plan options. Since the start of Medicare Cost plans, Medicare Advantage plan availability has increased astronomically.
Because there are plenty of Medicare Advantage plans to choose from in most areas, Medicare Cost plans won’t be available in those counties anymore. Medicare Cost plan beneficiaries were able to enroll in either a Medigap plan or Medicare Advantage plan, return to Original Medicare, or be auto-enrolled into a Medicare Advantage plan set by the carrier to take over care.
The Return of A Special Open Enrollment Period
Medicare has brought back the “try it before you buy it” feature of Medicare Advantage plans. This is where you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the Annual Election Period (AEP). If you don’t like it after using it for a little bit, you can change out of it during the Open Enrollment Period that has been brought back.
This Open Enrollment Period begins January 1st and ends March 31st. This is a great little window because in the past, once you enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan during the AEP, you were stuck in it until the next AEP that was a year away.
Now, you can make a change from one Advantage plan to another or disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare.
The First Ever Medicare App
Medicare bounced into the 21st century by launching their first-ever smartphone app. It’s called What’s Covered. This app is self-explanatory – it tells you what is covered by Medicare.
Because Medicare doesn’t cover every medical service under the sun and the ones they do cover can come with some restrictions, it’s nice to know that wherever you are, you can check your phone to see if Medicare will cover your procedure.
More Changes to Come
Times are always changing and so it’s important for Medicare to adapt accordingly. With that said, you should expect Medicare to change every year. This year, we lost two Medigap plans.
Medigap Plan F and Plan C wouldn’t be plan options for new Medicare enrollees as of 2020. For those who either have one of these plans or are eligible for Medicare prior to 2020, they will continue to have these plans as options. New enrollees, however, will not.
Sometimes, there are major changes that affect all Medicare beneficiaries. Some are minor, some are good and others aren’t so great. That’s why it’s important to learn the changes that are being made to Medicare every year.