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Making the Most of the Medicare Annual Election Period

Article | October 2019

Making the Most of the Medicare Annual Election Period

Understanding the ins and outs of your Medicare Advantage plan is critical. Here are six tips to help.

Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are increasingly popular, offering robust benefits including vision, health, dental, drug coverage and more for more than 22 million people nationwide.

"Health care is one of the most important investments you'll ever make," says Brian Evanko, who heads Medicare for Cigna, which serves more than 3 million Medicare customers nationwide through its various plans. "Understanding the ins and outs of your MA plan is critical."

With that in mind, consider the following tips:

Review changes. Don’t overlook the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) sent each fall to MA customers with information about plan changes for the upcoming year, including costs, benefits, available doctors and facilities. It can help you determine if you need to change plans the following year.

Weigh extras. To take full advantage of your plan, understand its extra benefits not available in Original Medicare. They may include really important components such as dental, vision, hearing and no-cost access to fitness programs, or even over-the-counter drug coverage and no-cost transportation to doctors and pharmacies.

Consider other factors. Do you know what doctors and facilities are included in your plan? Familiarize yourself with your plan’s drug coverage, prices on your regular maintenance medications and whether it’s easy to see specialists. Know your copays (how much you’re required to pay out-of-pocket for doctor visits) and the deductible. Are these items affordable for you?

Know yourself. There are many different plan types. Is yours best suited to your budget, lifestyle and health status? Of course, priorities change, which could prompt a need for a plan change down the line.

Don't forget prevention. Many MA plans cover health screenings beyond those covered by Original Medicare. Talk to your doctor about which screenings are important for you given your age and health status. Some MA plans may even provide rewards, such as gift cards, for completing certain screenings.

Get assistance. Unsure about the specifics of your plan? Visit Plan Finder, an online tool available through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. You can also check your health plan’s website or call customer service for more information. Local and state agencies on aging also connect older adults and caregivers with resources.

"Medicare is a great program, but it can be complicated, especially for those new to it," Evanko advises. "Seek out third-party resources and ask questions so you can get the most out of your plan."

To learn more about Cigna’s Medicare options, visit Cigna Medicare.

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