(StatePoint) — It’s that time of year again: The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP) began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7. Medicare is a critical source of health care for millions of Americans who are age 65 and older and for younger people with certain qualifying disabilities.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sets this time for people eligible for Medicare to select or make changes to their plans for the following year.
For people with Medicare, there is nothing more important than maintaining physical and financial independence. The right health care plan can help. It can ensure you have access to fitness programs, preventive services, engaged doctors, maintenance medications and transportation, all at an affordable price.
That’s why it’s so crucial for Medicare consumers to consider their health and budget needs as they evaluate their health care options for 2018.
“Choosing a plan isn’t as simple as just keeping the one you had last year or looking only at the monthly premium costs,” said Brian Evanko, who leads Cigna’s government programs, which includes Cigna-HealthSpring.
“The goal should be to choose a plan that best meets your individual needs. It’s important to find the right balance for you between benefits and affordability.”
To help you choose a plan and get the most from it, consider these five tips:
1. Make a list of priorities and needs. Focusing on prevention? Need dental, vision or hearing coverage? Seeking comprehensive prescription drug coverage?
Take time to evaluate plan options according to your personal health and financial goals.
2. Know your network. Many plans offer choices with a network of doctors. Navigating the health care system can be complex, time-consuming and costly.
Surround yourself with providers who are committed to getting to know your needs and to meeting them through open communication and care coordination.
3. Medicare plans offer many preventive health benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 100,000 lives could be saved each year if everyone received recommended preventive care, which often starts with seeing a doctor for an annual check-up. For more information about preventive care, visit www.cigna.com/takecontrol.
4. Stay active with fitness benefits. Exercise is essential to healthy aging. Original Medicare doesn’t cover gym memberships or fitness programs, but some Medicare Advantage plans offer such benefits as part of their coverage at no extra cost.
5. Use no-cost resources to help pick the right plan. CMS’ Plan Finder helps you compare costs, covered medications and other items. Many insurance plans offer seminars at no cost and with no obligation to sign up. Check health plans’ websites or call customer service.