Top 5 Changes to Medicare | 2019

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Are you informed on Medicare 2019?

October 15th marks the beginning of the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which means it’s time for seniors to review their drug and health care plans. You have until December 7th to enroll, so as you consider your options, here are the biggest new changes that are in play.

1. MEDICARE ADVANTAGE PLANS (PART C): Extending the Dis-Enrollment Period

After the AEP closes, Medicare Advantage plan enrollees now have a full 3 months to make one change: to either switch plans or opt out of Medicare Advantage plans altogether. For those who want to switch plans, this extension gives enrollees more time to review the plan they chose during AEP, and for those who opt out, they have more time to return back to Original Medicare and add a stand-alone Part D Prescription Drug Plan.
This extended dis-enrollment period is from Jan. 1 – Mar. 31.

2. PART D: Premiums projected to go down again!

According to the CMS, average Part D premiums are projected to go down for the second year in a row. The decreases vary among prescription plans, and some may not change, but as a whole, seniors can expect to see lower prescription drug costs.

3. PART D: Congress is closing the Donut Hole early for brand-name drugs

Yes, you heard that right, Congress is ahead on a deadline. The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies close the gap or “donut hole” for all prescription drug coverage by 2020, but for brand-name drugs, Congress is closing it in 2019. What is the donut hole? It’s been a gap between spending thresholds in between which prescription drug costs were not covered. For example, in 2018,  it meant that your Part D prescriptions were only covered up to $3,750, and coverage only kicked back in after you had spent $5,000 out-of-pocket.

Although average premiums are going down and the donut hole is being closed across all plans, the Annual Enrollment Period is the only time of year you can change your Part D plan, so you should definitely consider reviewing it. Part D plan all differ slightly in their coverage in regards to different prescriptions, so seniors should look at the available 2019 options to make sure they are still on the best plan for their current prescription needs.

4. PART B PREMIUMS: Increase slightly from 2018

For new enrollees and those who are not on Social Security, Part B premiums will go up by $1.50 from $134/month in 2018 to $135.50 in 2019. In addition, the Medicare Part B annual deductible will show a slight increase to $185 (from $183).

For those who are on Social Security, read on. Part B premiums are deducted from your Social Security check, so last year you saw premium increases keeping pace with your Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA). Why? During years where there is no Social Security COLA, Part B premiums cannot increase for Social Security beneficiaries regardless of increases elsewhere, like for new enrollees. 2019 is bringing another significant COLA increase of 2.8% to Social Security, so Part B premiums may increase to match that (we’ll update this post when these numbers are announced. So, your Social Security checks will increase, but that extra money may go to pay your higher Part B premiums (we’ll keep you posted!).

5. PART B PREMIUMS: Higher-income individuals still pay a higher Part B surcharge

Many high earners saw a significant increase last year with a change in the income brackets. For 2019, CMS has added an additional bracket at the top for the highest earners. While in 2018, the highest bracket started at $160,000 for single ($320,000 for married), in 2019, the highest bracket (and premium) starts at $500,000 for individuals and $750,000 for married couples.

The new higher income brackets look like this:

  • $352.20/month:
    Individuals: $133,500.01–$160,000
    Married/Joint: $267,001.01–$320,000
  • $433.40/month:
    Individuals: $160,000–$500,000
    Married/Joint: $320,000–$750,000
  • $460.50/month:
    Individuals: $500,000+
    Married/Joint: $750,000+

YOUR NEXT STEPS?

Knowing the changes for 2019 can help you make the most informed decision about whether you should change your Medicare plan. But please remember that any savings you may discover by switching plans have no effect if you do not enroll by December 7. Open enrollment has only one deadline and no extensions.

You can enroll for Parts A and B online through Social Security, by calling the Social Security office at 1-800-772-1213, or by visiting in-person at a Social Security office. The majority* of new seniors have a 7-month window to sign up for Original Medicare—3 months preceding and 3 months following your 65th birthday.
(*If you are between the ages of 62-65 and already receive SSI benefits, you will be auto-enrolled in Medicare.)

Once you’ve signed up, make sure you have a trusted and independent Medicare agent help you decide between a Supplement + Part D plan and a Medicare Advantage Plan. Only with an agent or firm who is independent of any partnerships or contracts with insurers are you guaranteed unbiased assistance.

Email or call Robert today to get on his November calendar to help you make any changes you need.