Three Ways Medicare Is Changing in 2017

Three Ways Medicare Is Changing in 2017

Open enrollment for Medicare begins on October 15 and ends December 7. This is the time of the year when you can make changes to your current coverage, switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another and reconsider Medicare Part D if necessary.

While this Annual Enrollment Period happens every year, there are a few differences this year that you should be aware of:

 1. Cost of Medicare Part B premiums are likely to increase for 2017. Be sure to consult information from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services to fully understand your potential costs. With Part B premiums going up, you may also want to consider a Medicare Advantage plan. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network have Medicare Advantage plans that offer a complete package of benefits and low monthly premiums. Most Medicare Advantage plans combine Parts A, B, and D coverage into one plan, and many plans include coverage for preventive dental, hearing, vision; some even offer fitness memberships at no additional cost.

  2. Medicare recipients reaching the “donut hole” will benefit from better prescription drug discounts. First, let’s explain the coverage gap or, “donut hole”. When your prescription drug expenses exceed the initial coverage limit of your plan, but your total prescription drug costs for a calendar year haven’t reached the set maximum level yet ($3,700 in 2017), you’ve found yourself in the “donut hole.”

Before 2011, Medicare Part D enrollees paid the full cost of their medications while in the “donut hole”. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the “donut hole” of prescription coverage is slowly being reduced. That’s why, in 2017, enrollees who are in the “donut hole” will pay just 40 percent of the cost of brand name drugs and 51 percent of the cost of generic drugs (down from 58 percent in 2016). By 2020, the donut hole will be reduced where enrollees will pay 25% of the cost of their Part D covered brand and generic medications.  For an even clearer explanation, this infographic also walks through what the donut hole is in a more visual way.

 3. Medicare Advantage plans continue to see changes. Thirty percent of Medicare recipients were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2015. Because medical expenses increase every year, Medicare Advantage plans change so insurance companies can balance cost increases while maintaining plan benefits.

What does that mean for enrollees? Potential changes to your coverage or costs. That’s why it’s important to take the time to review your 2017 Annual Notice of Change Letter sent to you by your insurance provider. This will give you a good understanding of what is changing so that when open enrollment comes around, you’ll know what steps to take.

For a better understanding of Medicare, read through these other blogs:

Medicare Plus BlueSM, Blue Cross® Medicare Private Fee for Service, BCN AdvantageSM and Prescription BlueSM are PPO, PFFS, HMO-POS, HMO and PDP plans with Medicare contracts. Enrollment in Medicare Plus Blue, Blue Cross Medicare Private Fee for Service, BCN Advantage and Prescription Blue depends on contract renewal. You must continue to pay your Medicare Part B premium. This information is not a complete description of benefits. Contact the plan for more information. Limitations, copayments, and restrictions may apply. Benefits and premiums may change on January 1 of each year.

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