Q: What do Iowans need to know about Medicare Open Enrollment?
A: Don’t dilly dally. The deadline for Medicare recipients to update their health insurance coverage for next year is Dec. 7, 2021. More than 644,000 individuals are enrolled in Medicare in Iowa. During open enrollment, beneficiaries may join or switch from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage. As then-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I was one of the chief architects to bring Medicare into the 21st century with the first-ever outpatient prescription drug benefit. Today seniors are able to obtain coverage for their prescription medicine by enrolling in Medicare Part D. I advise Iowans to take stock of your benefits to ensure you’re getting the best value for the services and care you need. Don’t let your current coverage roll into the New Year without taking a look at choices and changes in coverage. For example, your health care needs may have changed and require more or fewer doctor visits, prescription medicines and other medical services. Compare out-of-pocket costs, monthly premiums and benefits among plan providers when comparing supplemental insurance choices. Medicare provides an Annual Notice of Changes every recipient should review carefully to avoid surprises in 2022. Don’t assume coverage, costs and benefits stay the same. Do some comparison shopping among plans to determine out-of-pocket costs, including premiums, deductibles, coinsurance and copayments, or whether a specific provider or specialist you may need to see in the coming year is in a plan’s network. If cost-sharing is increasing on certain benefits or prescription drugs, does that fit into your budget? New coverage for traditional Medicare begins Jan. 1, 2022.
Q: What should newly eligible Medicare recipients know?
A: It’s better to be safe than sorry. Iowans nearing age 65 should do their homework to understand coverage benefits. Soon-to-be retirees should check out Getting Ready to Retire, particularly to avoid the risk of paying penalties down the road. The Social Security Administration determines eligibility for individuals to enroll in Medicare. Always keep information regarding your eligibility in writing. For most people, Medicare Part A does not charge a premium. Generally speaking, Part A covers inpatient care, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care and home health services. Medicare Part B covers preventive services, durable medical equipment, mental health and other medical tests and services to treat or diagnose a medical condition. Medicare recipients have the option to purchase Medicare supplemental insurance for more cost protection for care and services not covered by Medicare. These are called “Medigap” or supplemental insurance. In Iowa 12 standardized plans are available. Medicare Advantage (Part C) offers coverage through private contractors and may include additional benefits, such as vision, hearing and dental services. In 2022, Iowa Medicare recipients may choose from as many as 61 Medicare Advantage plans. The Open Enrollment period for Medicare Advantage is from Jan. 1-March 31. For information on choosing a Medicare Part D drug plan, visit Medicare.gov/plan-compare.
Q: What resources are available for Iowans needing assistance?
A: Iowans may contact a trained insurance counselor through the state Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP). This free, unbiased and confidential service operates to help Iowans navigate coverage options available through Medicare and other health insurance programs. Find a local SHIIP office here. Right now, advertising on cable news networks is saturating the airwaves with information about Medicare open enrollment. It may seem overwhelming to sort through the information and figure out which plan best suits one’s budget and health care needs. For objective analysis and plan comparisons, Iowans may access the 2021 Iowa Medicare Supplement & Premium Guide compiled by the Iowa Insurance Division, the state regulator which supervises all insurance business transacted in the state of Iowa. For more information, contact SHIIP at (800) 351-4664. TTY (800) 735-2942.