Time is running out for Medicare Annual Enrollment period
The annual enrollment period ends on December 31st. Time is running out to choose a Medicare Advantage Plan or stand alone Part D prescription drug plan. If you have yet to submit an application, it’s not too late to start comparing Medicare Advantage Plans.
Even if you were happy with your 2009 Medicare Advantage Plan look at your options. The insurance companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans, offer a particular plan for one calendar year. They can change that plan or even discontinue that plan for the following year.
There were many plans in 2009 that will not be renewed for 2010. Many of these plans were private fee-for-service plans (PFFS). Funding cuts from Medicare to these insurance companies and network requirements for 2011 were the main reasons that many companies eliminated PFFS plans in some areas.
PPO and HMO plan options
With PFFS plans less prevalent for 2010, the main options are PPOs and HMOs. When comparing 2010 Medicare Advantage plans, you should take a look at these two options. Refer to your Medicare and You publication or visit the official Medicare website to search for plans in your area.
The benefit of these type of plans compared to a PFFS plan, is that you have a defined provider network. With a PFFS plan you are able to use any provider that accepts Medicare assignment and agrees to accept the plan’s payment terms and conditions. Although this may sound like the ideal situation, many providers will nor accept some PFFS plans and those that do can choose to accept you on a visit by visit basis except in the case of an emergency.
A Medicare HMO Advantage Plan requires you to have a primary care physician that co-ordinates your care with specialists and medical facilities. Cost sharing is often very reasonable for required co-pays and co-insurance.
A HMO plan also includes many non-Medicare covered benefits including, dental, vision and hearing services. It’s not uncommon for an HMO to include a gym membership and discounts on vitamins and medical related supplies.
You may also consider a PPO to increase your freedom of choice. AARP Medicare Complete offers a popular PPO plan in many parts of the country. With a PPO you still have a network of providers and you identify a primary care physician. Often you are able to change your primary care physician without the plan’s approval. You are also able to use providers that are out-of-network, but will have a lower cost if you use a network provider.
Be sure to check the network of providers if you plan to go out-of-network, as out of network charges may be significantly higher. This can be particularly true for out-of-network Hospital Stays.
Whether you are looking for a PFFS, PPO or HMO Medicare Advantage Plan, you still have time to start comparing 2010 Medicare Advantage Plans so that you can get the best plan for 2010.