Medicare’s open enrollment period is underway and the plans offered are almost as unique as the people they serve.
“We wanted to make sure that we could provide a good amount of choice so that folks can pick the right plan that will meet their particular health care needs,” said Janice Torrez, president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico.
A plethora of plans exist. There are plans for folks who don’t want a monthly premium, for those who receive veterans benefits or Medicaid, for people who are looking for such extras as help with transportation or an insulin saving program, and more.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico offers seven Medicare Advantage plans in 12 counties. One debuting for 2022 has caught Torrez’s attention. The plan gives people the flexibility to choose any health provider, like a Medicare supplement plan, but also offers some benefit extras typically associated with Medicare Advantage plans.
“We are thrilled to be able to introduce a pretty innovative plan,” Torrez said of the new Blue Cross Medicare Advantage Flex plan. “I don’t think anyone else is offering this in the market.”
Medicare’s open enrollment period for next year’s coverage began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7. During this time, people who qualify for Medicare can make changes to their health or prescription drug plans, select a Medicare Advantage plan or return to original Medicare.
Zach Kosky, Humana Central West Region Medicare president, says he wakes up every day thinking about designing plans and giving members what they want.
“When we see a population that’s being underserved and not really getting what they could under a Medicare Advantage type of plan, then we kind of come around that,” Kosky said. “We huddle up and we say, ‘How can we design something that has them in mind?’ ”
Original Medicare is administered by the government, and provides hospital and medical coverage, Kosky said. Prescriptions are covered separately.
However, with Medicare Advantage, that coverage is bundled into one plan and administered by such private companies as Humana and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Those insurance carriers can also offer such additional benefits as vision, dental and hearing coverage – or incentive programs, such as Silver Sneakers or over-the-counter medicine allowances.
“Medicare beneficiaries might want to consider a Medicare Advantage plan if they’re really looking to reduce their out-of-pocket costs or they want some services that aren’t typically covered by original Medicare,” Torrez said.
Before beginning the enrollment process, Kosky said it’s helpful to make a list of medications you’re taking and doctors you’re already seeing. When choosing a plan, note the cost of buying the plan, the monthly premium if there is one, and the cost of using the plan. Copays, deductibles and out-of-pocket limits are part of the cost of using a plan.
Kosky recommends people go to medicare.gov/plan-compare or call 1-800-MEDICARE to get started. He said navigating Medicare is easier than it has been in the past.
“You don’t have to be a Medicare expert to see at a glance what’s available and I think they’ve done a great job of making it much more accessible.”