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What You Should Do During Medicare’s Open Enrollment

By Charles Cooke, CFP®

Medicare’s open enrollment begins this month, and if you are already receiving Medicare, now is an ideal time to review your coverage. Even if you plan to keep the coverage you have, you should make sure you take a look at your plans’ changes for 2019, such as price increases for prescription drugs. By taking a little time now to review your options, you may be able to get a better deal, can help prevent expensive surprises later, and can feel confident that you have the right coverage—at least, until next year’s open enrollment.

What Can You Do During Open Enrollment?

  • If you have Original Medicare (Parts A and B), you can switch to Medicare Advantage (Part C).
  • If you have Medicare Advantage:
    • You can switch to Original Medicare
    • You can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan
  • If you have a Part D prescription drug plan, you can switch to another Part D plan.
  • If you didn’t enroll in Part D when you were first eligible, you can enroll now. However, you may have to pay a late-enrollment penalty.

4 Steps to Take

  1. Review your current coverage. Open enrollment is from October 15 to December 7, but I recommend you start checking your mailbox in early October. That is when your plans will send materials such as the “Annual Notice of Change” and “Evidence of Coverage.” These materials will let you know about changes for 2019.
  2. Evaluate your health care needs. Consider your current state of health and any changes you anticipate. For instance, your doctor may want to prescribe a new type of drug that promises better treatment for a condition. After you have determined your potential needs for 2019, you can move on to the next step.
  3. Research your options. Use Medicare’s Plan Finder to take a look at your options for 2019. You can compare various plans’ coverage, premiums, and copayments. You will need to verify that your doctor is included in any plan that are considering by calling your doctor’s office or the insurer.
  4. Make your decision. If you decide to keep your coverage as is, you will not have to do anything. Your plans will auto-enroll. To make a change, you can enroll online using the Plan Finder or call (800) 633-4227. Your coverage will begin January 1.

Where Can You Get Help?

Medicare can get complicated. If you find that you are having trouble deciding among your options, you can contact your State Health insurance Assistance Program for personalized counseling. Ideally, you should make your decisions about Medicare in light of your overall retirement plan. Consider reaching out to a financial advisor with an expertise in dentists to get help with your entire retirement picture, including Medicare.

Charles Cooke, CFP®, is the founder of Cooke Capital, a wealth planning and investment management firm specializing in dental practices.

Check the background of this firm/advisor on FINRA’s BrokerCheck.