(BPT) – Do you spend your Sunday mornings scouring the newspaper inserts for coupons? Make it a point to confirm discounts when booking hotel reservations? Secretly (or not so secretly!) love the senior discount at the movie theater?
If any of these sound familiar, you probably consider yourself a savvy consumer who likes to make sure you’re getting the most value for your money. But have you stopped to consider whether you’re applying those same prudent practices to your Medicare benefits?
Maximizing those benefits can help with more than just saving money. It could help improve your health as well.
Here are five tips to help ensure you get the most out of your Medicare coverage this year.
Tip 1: Learn the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage.
More than 66 million Americans made choices about their Medicare coverage last fall. Some opted for Original Medicare, but one in three chose Medicare Advantage, which combines Medicare Parts A and B. Many Medicare Advantage plans also offer prescription drug coverage and valuable extras, like dental, hearing and vision care. Understanding those additional benefits and features can help you make the most of your plan.
Tip 2: Review what your plan covers — and use those benefits.
You can usually find coverage and benefits information on your insurer’s website or in the plan documents your insurer sent in the mail. As noted above, extra benefits and features included in many Medicare Advantage plans cover dental exams and cleanings, hearing and vision exams. Fitness benefits may also be included.
Tip 3: Take advantage of preventive care benefits.
Original Medicare offers all beneficiaries an annual wellness visit. Some preventive screenings, like mammograms and colonoscopies, are also included. These services can help catch health problems early, when they’re usually easier to treat. And your annual wellness visit is a good opportunity to sit down with your doctor and develop a plan to help you achieve your best health in the year ahead.
A Medicare Advantage plan from UnitedHealthcare will even bring preventive care into your own living room through the HouseCalls program. The program helps make it easier for members to get important information about their medications and communicate with health providers about how their care fits with their health needs and budget.
Tip 4: Plan yearly expenses with the out-of-pocket maximum in mind.
Medicare costs can vary widely for individuals based on their situation and the type of coverage they have. Original Medicare generally covers 80% of a person’s Part A and Part B expenses, which include services such as doctor visits, hospital stays and lab tests. The individual is responsible for the other 20%, with no annual limit on out-of-pocket costs.
Medicare Advantage plans offer predictable copays and cap your annual out-of-pocket expenses. Once you reach the out-of-pocket max set by your plan, all additional costs for Medicare-covered services for the rest of the year are covered at 100%. That cap can mean peace of mind if you have an unexpected illness or if you’re planning to undergo a major medical procedure.
Tip 5: Look to save money on prescription drugs.
Prescription drug coverage isn’t included with Original Medicare (Parts A and B). Some people opt to enroll in a stand-alone Part D plan, but many choose a Medicare Advantage plan, which often includes prescription coverage.
Using home delivery pharmacy benefits can be one way to save money — not to mention trips to the pharmacy. With some home delivery pharmacies, you can order a three-month supply of medication for a lower cost than you would pay if you got the same supply at a local drug store.
If you prefer to use a retail pharmacy, check whether your plan has a preferred pharmacy network. This can usually mean a lower copay.
Switching to an alternative drug that’s cheaper than one you’re currently taking can be another way to save money. Ask your doctor if there’s a generic drug or one on a lower tier of your plan’s formulary (the list of covered drugs) that could work just as well for you.
The bottom line
Following these tips to get the most out of your Medicare plan could be doubly rewarding — more money in your wallet and better health to help you live your best life.
To learn more, visit UHCMedicareHealthPlans.com.
The HouseCalls program is not available with all plans. To check if HouseCalls is available to you or to schedule a HouseCalls visit, call 1-866-686-2504, TTY 711, Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET, or visitUHCHouseCalls.com. HouseCalls may not be available in all areas.
Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.