Medicare Deadline Looming Earlier Than Before

Scot Colgrove, our resident Medicare expert with my firm, Buckingham Asset Management, recently reminded our advisors about the changes in the enrollment period for Medicare Part D. I thought it was important to share his thoughts with you.

With all the attention that the Healthcare Reform Act has attracted since its passage in 2010, one change to a healthcare-related deadline that affects millions and goes into effect in a few days has received relatively little attention. Beginning this year, there's a change in the timing of the open enrollment period for Medicare recipients to enroll or change their Part D plans. Under new rules issued by Medicare beginning in 2011, the annual open enrollment period has been moved up to run from October 15 through December 7. Prior to 2011, this open enrollment period ran from November 15 through December 31.

If you're currently enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan, there are several reasons why you may consider reviewing your current plan to see if it's still the ideal plan for your situation. Medicare Part D plans vary from company to company with regards to their drug formularies, which determine coverage and what drugs are covered in the plan and at what level. One plan might require a higher co-payment for a particular brand name or specialty drug than a plan administered by another company. In addition, the insurance companies that administer the plans change or update their drug formularies from year to year. This is particularly true with brand name or specialty drugs. For example, this could mean that a drug considered Tier 2 on the plan's formulary the previous year could now be listed as a Tier 3 drug, resulting in a higher copay.

If your health history or medications have changed in the last year, you may want to check to see if your current plan makes the most economical sense for you. Being enrolled in a plan that isn't optimal for your situation could cost you thousands of dollars a year in unnecessary copays and premiums. For help with reviewing which Part D plan is best for your situation, you can use Medicare's online plan comparison at www.medicare.gov or call their toll-free hotline at 1-800-Medicare.

Photo courtesy of taxbrackets.org
More on MoneyWatch:
Social Security Strategies: File and Suspend Social Security Strategies: Double Dipping How to View the Current Economic Situation John Bogle's Dream Fund Dollar-Cost Averaging: Does It Produce Better Results?
Three ways I can help you become a wiser investor: