The annual open enrollment period for joining, switching or dropping Medicare Advantage health insurance plans, provided by private companies starts next week, and zero-premium offerings are expected to be more popular than ever with Americans feeling the squeeze of inflation.
People ages 65 and older, or younger individuals with disabilities who qualify for coverage starting October 15 and running through December 7, can apply for coverage beginning at the beginning of 2023 under the government's guidelines.
But not all plans are the same, experts say shoppers are advised to do their research to make sure they are receiving optimal coverage, even if no premium is charged, and there could be other costs involved.
Melissa Brenner, an insurance broker in Charlotte, North Carolina, told the Associated Press that it is not a one-size-fit-all program. You don't want to look at a zero plan and just enroll in it. Medicare Advantage plans are similar to traditional government-run plans, except that they typically require patients to visit health care providers or pharmacies within a network. Individuals with private plans will still have to pay Medicare Part B's monthly cost to cover doctor's visits.
The cost will come out to $164.90 a month next year and is usually deducted from Social Security checks.
Brenner recommends that shoppers look at the networks, co-pay costs and annual out-of- pocket maximums when comparing plans, rather than just looking at the price of premiums or lack thereof. No-premium plans can be great for people who are healthy and don't need a lot of medical services, but plan with less coverage can be a bigger risk for those who are not and amount to more significant out-of- pocket costs.