The official Medicare website is a great resource for people entitled to Medicare. You can learn what Medicare covers, download government publications and file a complaint. You can even enroll in a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan. But should you?
We’ll take a look at best practices when researching and comparing Medicare plans. With those best practices in mind, we’ll look at the information provided on the Medicare website to help you choose a plan.
Choosing the best Medicare Advantage or Part D plan is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health and stay within your budget. At the end of this article, ask yourself if the Medicare website is giving you enough information to confidently enroll in the most suitable Medicare plan.
Important steps in researching Medicare plans
Making a choice without knowing all the facts is like taking a shot in the dark; that holds true for anything. And it’s certainly true when choosing a Medicare plan. Here are the necessary steps for choosing the most suitable Medicare Advantage or Part D plan for your circumstances:
- Learn what options are available. Visit medicare.gov click, Compare Health and Drug Plans to find plans in your area.
- Review the plan’s Summary of Benefits, provider or pharmacy network and Part D formulary. (Not available at medicare.gov)
- Narrow your list of plans and compare potential costs (premiums, deductibles, coinsurance & copayments).
Only the first step can be accomplished by visiting the official Medicare website. You can compare premiums, deductibles, estimated costs and Medicare Star Ratings, but that’s not enough information to make choice. Yet, with insufficient information you can enroll in a plan through Medicare’s official website.
If you choose to enroll through medicare.gov, you will enter your information to complete the enrollment application. At one point you are prompted to enter your primary care physician (optional) without ever having access to a provider directory to even see if they are in-network.
You will not know which specialists, hospitals or ancillary facilities are in-network. If you enroll through the Medicare website, you will have no information on provider copays, costs for inpatient care, outpatient testing, extra benefits or any relevant information about how you will be affected when using the plan.
After you enroll through medicare.gov
If you choose to enroll in a plan through the Medicare website you will receive all the important documents in the mail. You will be able to review the Summary of Benefits, Provider or Pharmacy Directory and Part D Formulary.
But ask yourself this: what other product of such importance do you choose and then decide if you made the right choice? The answer is probably none! People spend more time choosing cell service and a phone! So why short change yourself when choosing a Medicare plan?
The saving grace of course, is you can enroll in as many Medicare plans as you choose as long as you are within an enrollment period. The last plan chosen will become your plan. But that’s silly… You should research first, choose the best plan for your circumstances and then enroll. Don’t take a shot in the dark!
Enrolling through medicare.gov vs enrolling through an ObamaCare Health Insurance Exchange
Clearly, enrolling in a plan through the official Medicare website leaves you at a disadvantage. But what if you are under 65 and buy health insurance through a Health Insurance Exchange? That’s a completely different story! ObamaCare has provided funding for thousands of Health Care Navigators to personally assist people under 65 to compare and buy health insurance. If you are under 65 you will (supposedly) be able to speak with someone personally or on the phone about your health insurance choices.
Could you imagine calling Medicare and speaking with a Navigator to help you choose a plan? Me neither!
So, how should you compare plans and enroll? Any way that will allow you access to the plan documents will work. You can:
- Meet with an agent or broker
- Enroll through a plan’s website
- Use an online service and get no cost quotes and comparisons of many Medicare plans
The official Medicare website is a great place to start. And there’s plenty of information about Medicare in general, but there’s not enough information for plan enrollment.