Medicare Open Enrollment is in full swing. For most people enrolled in Medicare, the annual Open Enrollment period (Oct. 15 through Dec. 7) is the only opportunity to make changes to your existing Medicare coverage.

Even if you are happy with your Medicare coverage, you should take the time to explore your options. There may be a plan that is better suited to your health and financial needs that could save you hundreds of dollars in the upcoming year.

Dan Klein, president and chief executive officer of the Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation, an independent charitable organization dedicated to helping people afford out-of-pocket costs for prescribed medications, offers the following tips for navigating Medicare Open Enrollment.

1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Take the time to shop around and understand the benefits and costs of each plan so that you can find the coverage that works best for you. Changes to your health status, doctors or healthcare providers, prescription drugs or budget may mean that your current plan is no longer the most cost-effective choice.

  1. CHECK WHO’S IN-NETWORK

Before selecting a plan, it’s smart to check that your preferred doctors, hospitals and pharmacies are in the plan’s provider network. If you visit a doctor, hospital or pharmacy that is outside of the network, you will likely have to pay more.

  1. ENSURE MEDICATIONS ARE COVERED

Medicare Part D helps cover the cost of prescription drugs. Many Medicare Advantage plans provide prescription drug coverage as well. It’s important to ensure that your plan covers the medications you need and that the plan’s network of pharmacies makes it convenient for you to access your drugs.

  1. BUDGET THE PLAN

There may be changes to Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans that affect your out-of-pocket costs. When selecting a plan, you should consider what you will be responsible for paying under the plan, including the deductible, out-of-pocket limit, co-pays and co-insurance.

  1. FACTOR IN OUT-OF-POCKET COSTS

If you have limited income and resources, you may qualify for a federal Medicare Low Income Subsidy (LIS), also known as Extra Help, to help pay for your prescription drug costs. You may also be eligible for a patient co-payment assistance program like PAN that provides people with financial assistance to cover out-of-pocket costs for their medical treatments. You can learn more about PAN and patient assistance charities by visiting PANFoundation.org.

-BPT

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