Open Enrollment – It’s Over, How Did It Go?

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If you’re wondering what the blog title is referring to then my efforts these last few months have been in vain, at least as they pertain to you. For everyone else, who knew right off what I was talking about, that’s great. Knowing about Medicare’s open enrollment period, that started on October 15th and ended last week on December 7th, is the first step in this yearly exercise, but knowing without doing anything else is maybe worse than not knowing at all. Abu Bakr, an early Islamic leader, said, “Without knowledge action is useless and knowledge without action is futile”. This yearly enrollment period is a chance to assemble the knowledge of our healthcare, combine that with our financial situation and take the action to make an informed decision about our healthcare insurance for the upcoming year. I hope everyone took the time to take this important action and for the purposes of this blog I’m going to assume that everyone took the steps necessary to review their supplemental or Medicare Advantage plans, including their Prescription Drug Plans (PDP), to ensure that they still fit their healthcare and financial goals.

Gathering your health records can sometimes be difficult but there are some added benefits to getting all that information up-to-date and in one place. For instance, I’ve found it’s sometimes difficult to obtain the results of tests or procedures. It’s often easier to get the written results of a doctor’s visit rather than the detailed results of tests and prognosis. I’m a big believer in the fact that future health problems can be better analyzed if there is a base line to compare them with. For instance, a little over a year ago, during a physical, I had an EKG that was not normal. I went through a battery of tests, including an Echocardiogram (ultrasound) and a nuclear cardiac stress test (anything with the word “nuclear” in it should be taken seriously). Luckily the results proved that my heart was just fine, the EKG must have been in error. I worked very hard, and it took some time to get electronic copies of the results of these tests. My reasoning for getting them was I figured that if I had any future heart problems the cardiologist would benefit from seeing what had changed from my earlier tests. My point here is, there are benefits in gathering your records together that go beyond open enrollment.

Another benefit has to do with gathering your prescription drug information. It seems that more than once over the course of a year you are asked detailed information about what prescription drugs you take. Having the detailed type and quantity of drugs you take can help with responding to these requests. It can also be important to have a history of drugs you have taken and even a note of why it was prescribed and its effectiveness. I’ve known more than one person who had recurring urinary tract infections that through tracking the history and effectiveness of medications came to know which antibiotics worked and which didn’t. This person could supply the doctor with this history, and it helped speed up recovery immensely.

Hopefully gathering this information gave you a clear picture of where you stood with your healthcare such that you could compare other healthcare plans and prescription plans and come to the best decision for you. I heard from some people that they first looked at their existing plan to make sure that it still fit their needs and to establish a base line from which they could compare other plans. I wish I had relayed this great approach to you before the enrollment period ended, I’ll try to remember to pass it along next year. It seemed that my plan added some benefits for next year and it cemented for me that I would stay with my existing plan.

On that note, it is interesting that in choosing traditional Medicare prescription drug plans from 2008 to 2020, only 10 to 13% of Medicare enrollees changed their plans each year. For Medicare Advantage drug plans, 6 – 12% changed. To me this either means that everyone went through a thorough review of their plan and was satisfied with their current plan (like I was) or not many people took the time to review their prescription drug needs. I’m going to stay optimistic and go with the first assumption.

Now that you have made this important decision there is still a little more work to be done. If you haven’t already, you will be receiving the information on the plan you have chosen for 2023. Take some time to go over the information. While you should already know about deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance and your current PDP’s formulary there may be some added benefits that you didn’t know about or even some hidden restrictions that might apply to you. My plan added a Spending Account Card that I’m going to find out more about. It wasn’t a variable to renew with my current plan, but it sounds like an easier way to take advantage of my over-the-counter allowance and maybe save me some money on some out-of-pocket costs for some benefits. The insurance companies are less busy now that open enrollment is over, and it might not take so long to talk with someone who can answer your questions and explain some of these benefits.

I hope that the work you did gave you peace of mind about the decision you made. If you take the time to update your healthcare information throughout the year it won’t take so much work in preparing for the next enrollment period. Having choices in our healthcare is one of the benefits of living in this country, but it is only through action that we can take advantage of this great benefit.

Best, Thair

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