With just a few weeks to go before the end of the year, many of your clients on Medicare or about to enroll in Medicare are thinking of what Medicare changes are likely to occur in 2022.
InsuranceNewsNet spoke with Medicare expert Elie Harriett about what to expect from Medicare in 2022. Harriett is co-owner of Classic Insurance & Financial Services Co., which specializes in Medicare-related insurance.
He works in three states -- Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky -- and although he cannot guarantee that everything will be the same in states like New York, California and Oregon and others, he is pretty confident that much of it will be.
InsuranceNewsNet: What are some of the positive trends we can expect in 2022?
Elie Harriett: Seniors and Medicare patients have a lot of things to look forward to, including the following:
Extra benefits for Medicare Advantage have increased across the board. These include benefits for items like comprehensive dental built into many plans at no additional premium and “flexible spending cards.” Some companies are giving the equivalent of a Visa card with a small balance on them that can be used for almost anything. And some have even taken the extraordinary step of including robotic companionship animals for seniors, and fitness trackers as high-end as an Apple watch at no or reduced costs to policyholders.
The insulin savings program instituted last year for prescription drugs has been very successful, leading to more companies utilizing it and a longer list of prescriptions covered through it.
People are more aware than ever that they need to revisit their Medicare coverage for 2022 as a result of all of the advertising that has taken place through different media outlets during the Medicare Enrollment Period that is currently under way.
Older, frequently prescribed drugs continue to go generic. This has caused an overall decline in the cost of drugs for consumers who are still being prescribed for those drugs.
More Medicare Supplement plans [terminology is distinct: there is a difference between supplemental policies and Medicare supplements] are beginning to offer extra benefits to compete with the offerings provided by Medicare Advantage plans. Some of these benefits are fitness memberships, glasses and non-Medicare-approved vision coverage, and some limited dental as well. There’s even one Medicare Supplement company that offers a hearing aid benefit to rival most Medicare Advantage plans.
INN: What are some of the not-so-positive developments that consumers should watch out for.
Harriett: These include the following:
Annual maximum out-of-pocket costs are increasing on Medicare Advantage Plans, which is the main impetus for us recommending a change this year.
Ads seen on various media outlets are leading more people to call into call centers to make a fast change, often disregarding a trusted broker. Possible long-term consequences include not getting a full “fact-find” completed for health insurance. Personal brokers not only know their clients, they also know the questions to ask as they pertain to their clients’ circumstances from fact finding. For some, the costs that are the most important to an individual can be buried in an “evidence of coverage” that is 400+ pages long.
Costs for Medicare Part B will be taking a jump next year. Prices for Medicare Supplements are set to do the same either this coming year or within a year.
Because of the ads they are seeing and hearing, more people are considering changing from a Medicare Supplement Plan for the wrong reason.
Overall costs for prescription drugs have gone up, even as more generics are being added and more are classified as “brand” than ever before.
INN: So what should consumers do right now to prepare for what’s ahead in 2022?
Harriett: The most important thing is to have your coverage reviewed. And I don’t mean have a knowledgeable person just go over the annual notice of changes. I mean you should compare the coverage you are going to get next year with the coverage other companies are offering.
Your 2021 plan could be the best insurance you ever had, but 2022 is a new year with new competition. Have a very critical eye on the medical benefits first, and all the extras second.
Extra benefits, money back and free gifts don’t mean anything to a person who is staring down at a large maximum out-of-pocket that can destroy the family’s finances.
Ayo Mseka has more than 30 years of experience reporting on the financial-services industry. She formerly served as Editor-In-Chief of NAIFA’s Advisor Today magazine. Contact her at [email protected]