Medicare is a federal health insurance program that provides essential health benefits to millions of seniors in America. Each year, the government announces changes that affect the policies and coverage. Some minor changes, such as the expansion of diabetes program, are minor and affect a small subset of Medicare beneficiaries; other changes such as the addition of Open Enrollment period for Medicare Advantage Plans can impact a larger group of beneficiaries.
Regardless of the size of change and additions, if you are 65 years of age or older, it’s important to stay up to date with these changes to understand the extent of the coverage and review your expected benefits for the coming year. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the latest changes for 2019 Medicare programs in October 2018.
Whether you are new to the program or already enrolled in one, here are the changes for the year 2019 that you should be aware of.
Increase in premiums for Medicare Part B:
Medicare Part A covers hospital visits and is usually free for those enrolled in the Medicare program. Part B covers the doctor visits and clinical diagnostics and charges a premium for coverage.
The standard monthly premium last year was $134, but in 2019 there has been an addition of $ 1.50 per month bringing the total to $135.50 to be paid each month. This figure could increase significantly in case you are in the high-income bracket.
Increase in Medicare deductibles:
All services under Medicare are subject to standard deductibles, which the beneficiaries need to pay out of their own pocket. Once the deductible is paid, the coverage provided under Medicare kicks in. The annual deductible for Part B in 2018 was $183, but it saw an increase of $2 in 2019 changes by the government. Meanwhile, Part A deductibles increased by $24 in 2019, rising to a total annual payment of $1364.
New Open Enrollment period:
Medicare Advantage is an alternative to the Original Medicare plans and allows seniors to combine their healthcare needs into a single plan rather than choosing between the traditional Part A, Part B, and Part D prescription plans. It’s also significantly more cost-effective and offers additional coverage for services such as dental, vision, and hearing.
Starting 2019, the Medicare Advantage Plan is being given its own Open Enrollment period that begins on January 1st and continues till March 31st. This will give seniors the chance to enroll for a new Advantage Plan or switch to a different one.
Beneficiaries can also drop the Medicare Advantage Plan and go for the traditional Medicare instead during this period. However, enrollees need to keep in mind that the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period is not the same as Original Medicare Open Enrollment period, which is open from October 15th to December 7th each year.
Expansion of the scope of coverage for Medicare Advantage Plans:
The Medicare Advantage Plan will now offer beneficiaries lifestyle support services from 2019 onward. The services can include home safety fixtures installation (ramps and handrails), home meal delivery, and transportation for medical appointments.
Enrollees that need help with daily living might also be offered coverage for home health aides. The Medicare Advantage Plan is also offering flexible enrollment where you’ll have the option to try a plan for up to three months. You can either switch to another plan or drop your current plan for Original Medicare, in case you aren’t satisfied with the coverage it offers.
Need More Information?
The more familiar you are with the different Medicare plans and coverage the better it will serve your medical needs after retirement. Consult a licensed medicare insurance agent regularly to stay ahead of the changes to make smarter healthcare decisions.
Seniors for Medicare is one of the top health insurance agency based in New York. We have been giving valuable advice and guidance to seniors in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland for years. With a team of expert senior Medicare advisors and a wealth of resources, our consultants can address all your queries regarding Medicare, Medigap, Medicare Supplement Plans, and Medicare Advantage Plans. Contact us today for an appointment with our consultants!