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Janie Slaven: TONI SAYS: Counting down to Medicare's Annual Enrollment Period beginning October 15
Times-Tribune - 9/29/2022
We have received a 20% increase for our Plan F Medicare Supplement that is effective October 1. I am a 70-year-old female in good health, but my husband, Fred, is undergoing cancer treatment. Also, his cardiologist has advised him that he may need a pacemaker.
My friends have advised me that we will have to wait until Medicare Annual Enrollment to change from our current Medicare Supplement plans.
I am concerned that with the Medicare Supplement increase we may not be able to afford the premiums. What should we do? Would a Medicare Advantage plan be a good option with Fred's cancer issues?
—Carol from Tampa, Fla.
Receiving your Medicare information from friends can lead you down the wrong path. You were given inaccurate information from a caring friend. I have good news for you because you do not have to wait until Medicare's Annual Enrollment to change your Medicare Supplement insurance company. You can change your Medicare Supplement anytime during the year. (Medicare's Annual Enrollment Period is when you can change your Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan.)
The Medicare Supplement renewal increase is more than the public was expecting for Plans F and C. In 2015, Congress passed legislation called "Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015" (MACRA) to help the medical industry by correcting the "Doc Fix" proposal. MACRA also updated Medicare Supplement's plans F and C which began January 1, 2020. At that time is when Medicare Supplement plan F and C increases began.
Carol, you — and anyone who wants to change their current Medicare Supplement plan and who has been enrolled in Medicare Part B longer than 6 months — can opt to change from your current Medicare Supplement Plan F to a different Medicare Supplement company or a different type of Medicare Supplement plan such as plan G or N. However, both you and your husband must qualify to make a change to your Medicare Supplement plans by answering medical underwriting questions.
If you cannot qualify because of a health issue, then another option may be to search for the right Medicare Advantage plan to fit your medical needs. The only catch to making a change to a Medicare Advantage plan is that, as I said above, you must wait until Medicare Annual Enrollment period which begins October 15 and runs through December 7 every year.
Below is how Medicare Supplement Plans G and N differ from a Medicare Supplement Plan F:
—Medicare Supplement Plan G offers lower rates and the same Medicare benefits as Plan F except the Medicare Part B deductible is not covered and will be paid for by the enrolled Medicare beneficiary. The Part B deductible for 2022 is $233.
—Medicare Supplement Plan N generally has lower premiums than Plan G with generally higher out-of-pocket. There is a $20 co-pay for a doctor visit and a $50 co-pay for emergency room care. The Part B deductible is not covered, and Part B excess charges are not paid for by the insurance company, which Plan G includes.
One caution: Do not cancel your existing policy until you have been approved by your new Medicare Supplement insurance company.
Toni King is an author and columnist on Medicare and health insurance issues. For answers to Medicare questions, email: email@example.com or call 832-519-8664. You can now visit www.seniorresource.com/medicare-moments to listen to her Medicare Moments podcasts.
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