Medicare’s 60 million beneficiaries have until midnight on Friday to decide if they want to remain with their current insurance coverage or switch to an option that may better suit their health needs and budget.
For virtually all enrollees, this will be the only opportunity to change their coverage for 2019. There are some exceptions, such as if you move, lose your health coverage through no fault of your own, or your financial circumstances change and you are now eligible for Medicaid to help you pay your out-of-pocket medical expenses. In those cases, Medicare provides special enrollment periods that will allow you to change your coverage or get it for the first time.
If you haven’t already made your coverage choices for 2019, you can still get help with choosing among options and finalizing your decisions. The deadline to make any changes for your 2019 coverage is 3 a.m. Eastern time and 12 a.m. Pacific on Friday. Medicare.Gov has a plan finder to help you review your options, including Part D prescription drug programs and Medicare Advantage plans, which are private insurance alternatives to Original Medicare. The website also has a new cost estimator that will help you compare your out-of-pocket costs in 2019 for Original Medicare and for a Medicare Advantage plan.
The Medicare hotline, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And beneficiaries who create a personalized account at MyMedicare.gov can use a new online chat feature to get their questions answered.
Medicare premiums for Part B, which covers doctor visits and other outpatient services, will increase slightly in 2019, to $135.50. Because these premiums are based on income, beneficiaries with annual incomes of greater than $85,000 will pay more ($189.60 for individuals with incomes between $85,000 and $107,000, for example).
Annual Part B deductibles will rise $2, to $185, next year, and the inpatient deductible for Part A, which covers hospitalizations and some nursing home and home health care services, will increase $24, to $1,364, in 2019.
In addition, the basic monthly Part D premium is projected to drop slightly, to $32.50, in 2019, and the Medicare Advantage monthly premium is also expected to decrease slightly, to $28. But premiums, copays and coinsurance costs for these private insurance plans vary based on where you live, your health needs and what each plan covers.