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Medicare open enrollment begins Oct. 15 and continues through Dec. 7. During that time, Medicare enrollees can view plans, change and adjust their coverage. When going through this year’s options and offerings, enrollees may see some changes and new offerings in the marketplace.

According to Paula Amicarelli, senior adviser at Medicare Advisors of Ohio in Chester Township, with offices in Cuyahoga Falls and Medina, and Caryn Zwick, an independent insurance agent with KAZ Company in Independence, changes come to the Medicare marketplace every year, and the 2020 enrollment period is no different.

“Some changes are subtle, and some are more obvious,” Zwick said.

She said some of the subtle changes include deductibles for prescription drug plans, with a $20 increase from $415 in 2019 to $435 in 2020.

“The good news is that not everyone is impacted by this increase, as generally speaking, preferred generics in tier 1 and generics in tier 2 formularies are not affected by the deductible,” she said. “Some plans still have a $0 deductible. Others range anywhere from $0 and $435.”

She added the coverage gap, or the donut hole, is being reduced, as predicted.

Major changes vary, Zwick said.

“A major change relates to Medicare Supplement plans F and C, known as first-dollar plans, as these plans will not be available to those who are Medicare-eligible after 2020,” she explained. “This change came about after the passing of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 that eliminates all Medigap plans that cover the part B deductible. The intention was to make everyone meet the Medicare Part B deductible as a way of, hopefully, keeping people from going to the doctor for every ailment.”

Amicarelli said many changes also come in the form of additional options.

“There are more drug plans and more Medicare advantage plans and more plan types to choose from for 2020,” she stated. “One example is, in the state of Ohio, a new type of advantage plan will be available for 2020 - a Medicare savings plan. It has been available in other states, but it has not been previously available in Ohio. Another big change is advantage plans are adding more out-of-hospital benefits. There are more benefits to support you living at home in the community, instead of being in the hospital or a skilled nursing community.”

The new options and additional benefits come from a change in the idea surrounding health care, Amicarelli said.

“There is an increasing understanding that we can reduce health care costs by focusing on wellness rather than illness and helping people get to their appointments, eat healthy meals and help them have access to other community services to stay healthy and live independently,” she explained. “The aging population is now really focused on these things, so it was about meeting that demand.”

Some of these new benefits include meal delivery after hospitalization, nutrition coaching, transportation to appointments and hearing aids.

“Some plans even offer support for service dogs, in terms of food allowances,” Amicarelli said. “Even things like pest control. There is a direct correlation between certain pest infestations and COPD. There are all kinds of new, innovative benefits.”

With these changes in mind, enrollees shouldn’t navigate the process without all the necessary information.

“Every year around Oct. 1, beneficiaries receive their annual notice of change,” Zwick said. “I encourage you to read through this thoroughly when you first receive it as changes to your plan are outlined thoroughly. For example, if you’re taking a medication that has a tier change or is eliminated from their formulary, this information is indicated in bold.”

Amicarelli said it is a good idea to meet with your adviser or broker, too.

“Every year there is a learning curve, plans change and we spend a big part of the summer getting trained on all of the plan changes for the coming year.,” she said. “So, that isn’t new to us, but every year there is more to talk about. So, in that sense, it’s very important to work with a professional, no matter how many times you’ve renewed. You may think you have it under control, but things change too quickly.”

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