The government has announced that Medicare's basic monthly premium will rise less than expected next year, by about $3.50 for most people.
The announcement came in the midst of Medicare's annual open enrollment period, which shifted earlier this year, starting on Oct. 15 and ending on Dec. 7, instead of the traditional Dec. 31.
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Kim Lankford, Kiplinger contributing editor, told Here & Now's Sacha Pfeiffer that Medicare recipients and their families should review their plans as soon as possible.
"I talk with so many people, who normally spend the Christmas holidays, talking with their relatives about what to do about Medicare, and you can't do that this year, you can't wait till the end of December. Instead, I'm recommending, if you see them at Thanksgiving, talk to them about Medicare then," she said.
Medicare is complicated, and reviewing plans can be tricky.
- Medicare Part A: Is free for all eligible seniors over 65 and covers hospital visits
- Medicare Part B: Covers most of the 48 million people on Medicare, takes care of doctors' visits and the new premium for that will be $99.90 per month
- Medicare Part D: Is a prescription drug plan, which costs about $30 per month
- Medicare Advantage: Rolls Medicare Parts A, B and D into one policy and is administered by a private insurance company
During open enrollment, recipients and their families should review their polices to make sure their policies aren't changing in the next year. One of the biggest concerns is whether a policy has dropped a drug, or increased the price of that drug.
"For example, your drug may have been covered, but in the past you may have had to pay a $20 co-payment," Lankford said. "Well they may have switched it to another tier, and you may have to pay $30 or $40 for it."
Lankford says the best way to make sure you're getting the coverage you need is to go to the government's Web site, which allows people to compare and contrast plans.
"At Medicare.gov... there's a plan finder tool," Lankford said. "And it shows you the premiums and the out of pocket costs and the total expenses throughout the year that you would pay with every plan in your zip code."
Lankford said if you need help navigating your way through the process, you should call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), and they will provide counseling on how to find the best plan for your needs.
She said that getting help and taking the time to review all your options could end up saving an enormous amount of money throughout the year.
- Kim Lankford, contributing editor for Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine
This segment aired on October 28, 2011.