Important Dates

Open Enrollment for Medicare is here. Here are the 2022 Annual Enrollment Period Dates:

October 15, 2021

Annual enrollment period begins; this is the first day you can enroll.

December 7, 2021

Annual enrollment period ends; this is the last day can enroll.

January 1, 2022

First date coverage can start. Even if you enroll in December 2021, your new Medicare plan won’t go into effect until January 1, 2022.


Basic Things to Keep in Mind

While Medicare coverage is great, changing your coverage, or joining a plan in the first place, can be tricky. While our health may have changed in the last year, so may have the details of our existing plan.

The reality is Medicare is quite confusing; there are various plans and they are not all created equally. If we don’t choose the right plan for our unique situation, we may end up with insufficient coverage and spending a lot of money out of pocket. That is not only disappointing but, for some, financially a hardship.

And remember, even though we may experience a change in our life, we cannot switch our plans at any time once we picked a Medicare plan. Due to insurability rules, at least in most states, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to change plans during the year.

Hence we, at NSPA, often recommend teaming up with a Medicare specialist to help you understand how Medicare works, what the available options are, and find the best plan for your unique situation. We, too, consult with a Medicare specialist when our clients run into confusing challenges.

While the level of detail going into picking your particular plan is very complex and not our specialty, we still want to offer you today some basic considerations that are an important part of a thoughtful decision-making process.

First of all: before making any changes to your plan, review your current Medicare health and drug coverage. Even if you’re satisfied with your coverage, a better plan for you could be out there.

Then consider the following factors, although your unique situation may additionally require more detailed and specific considerations:

  • Your current health status.
  • Consider what life would look like in the future if you were to experience unexpected health issues – what doctors and facilities would you want to see? Do they accept Medicare? What Medicare plans do they accept?
  • Your current doctors – do you want to keep them if possible?
  • What type of Medicare plans do your current doctors accept?
  • What type of medications do you currently take?
  • Look not just at premiums, but carefully look at co-pays, deductibles, maximum out-of-pocket expenses, and don’t forget to look at the “fine print” details that may add to your overall Medicare and health care costs.
  • Do you travel frequently? Which Medicare plan works best in such a scenario?

For more detailed and general information on the basics, please read our previous blog post Medicare – The Basics .

Vision and Dental

Vision

Medicare covers “medically necessary” services, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, if the provider accepts Medicare! However, Medicare does not provide coverage for annual eye exams, eyeglasses, or contact lenses; a Medicare Advantage plan may cover these services.

For more detailed information on vision, we found this page to be informative: https://www.medicareresources.org/faqs/how-does-medicare-cover-vision-services-and-treatment/

Dental

Medicare does not cover x-rays, fillings, cleanings, and some other services. You can, however, get dental coverage through an insurance company.

Medicare Landscape – 2022 Changes

Following are some general updates in changes to Medicare for 2022, per CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services). For more changes and specifics, please read this CMS press release or contact an Enrollment specialist.

  • The average 2022 premium for Medicare Advantage plans will be lower at $19 per month, compared to $21.22 in 2021.
  • The average 2022 premium for Part D coverage will be higher at $33 per month, compared to $31.47 in 2021.
  • Medicare Advantage plans will continue to offer a wide range of supplemental benefits in 2022, including eyewear, hearing aids, both preventive and comprehensive dental benefits, access to meals (for a limited duration), over-the-counter items, fitness benefits, and worldwide emergency/urgent coverage.
  • The percentage of plans offering special supplemental benefits for chronically ill individuals will increase from 19% to 25%.

“Birthday Bill” – SB 147

This new bill gives all Illinoisans between the age of 65-75, who are on an existing Medicare plan, the flexibility to be able to switch supplemental plans under the following criteria:

  • The new plan has to be under the same insurance provider.
  • Insurance providers would not be able to deny, underwrite, or charge new policyholders based on pre-existing conditions.
  • This special enrollment period begins on the policyholder’s birthday and lasts 45 days.
  • The coverage must be equal to or lesser than the current coverage.

SB 147 was introduced by State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines).

“If their supplemental plan rates go up, many older adults are denied the chance to switch to a less expensive plan because of a pre-existing condition. They’re locked into their current plan,” said Murphy. “It’s time to give older Illinoisans the freedom to seek lower costs elsewhere.”

Finally

We hope the information we provided today will help you in your preparation process. And please make sure you understand the Medicare plan you choose before you finalize your decision. Considering how complex and oftentimes confusing it can be to navigate this process if you feel unsure about any of it, we encourage you to consider consulting with an enrollment specialist.

And please visit and explore the following websites:

Sources and Resources

CMS Releases 2022 Premiums and Cost-Sharing Information for Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans. https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-releases-2022-premiums-and-cost-sharing-information-medicare-advantage-and-prescription-drug

CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). https://www.cms.gov

Medicare & You. The official U.S. government Medicare handbook

2022. https://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/10050-medicare-and-you.pdf

Medicare. https://www.medicare.gov

Medicare – The Basics. http://nshore.soapboxstudio.com/2019/08/30/medicare-the-basics/

Teri’s Corner

Finding New Doctors When You Move Is A Challenge. Daily Herald. https://www.dailyherald.com/entlife/20211003/finding-new-doctors-when-you-move-is-a-challenge

How To Choose A Surgeon. Chicago Magazine. https://www.chicagomag.com/chicago-magazine/october-2021/how-to-choose-a-surgeon/

Cure Or Quackery? How To Tell The Difference. Daily Herald. https://www.dailyherald.com/entlife/20210919/cure-or-quackery-how-to-tell-the-difference

Roll Up Those Sleeves: We Still Need Flu Shots. Daily Herald. https://www.dailyherald.com/entlife/20210912/roll-up-those-sleeves-we-still-need-flu-shots\

 

Stay well and be blessed!

 

BC