How to Compare Medicare Health Plans
Medicare, the federally administered health care program for the elderly and disabled, has many options. While most opt to take traditional Medicare, many are choosing Medicare private health plans, also known as Medicare Advantage plans. Figuring out where to start in comparing these plans can be daunting, but Medicare has an online plan finder tool that puts all of your local Medicare Advantage information right at your fingertips.
Make an inventory of what you need from a health care plan. If you have special health care needs or if you require special prescriptions, make note of them. When selecting a plan, you will want to find the one that can give you the care you need with the least obstacles at the lowest price.
Log on to the Medicare website (see References) to use Medicare’s options plan-finder tool. On the front page, click the “Health & Drug Plans” blue icon on the left side. Then click the “Compare Health Plans & Medigap Policies” link. From here you will be taken to the launch page of the plan-finder tool. On the right hand side you can find links to more information about your Medicare health care options. Take some time to read through these resources.
Click “Find & Compare Health Plans” once you have familiarized yourself more with how Medicare works. If you have a Medicare card and you do not mind entering in your private Medicare number, you can select the Personalized Search. Otherwise, click “Begin General Plan Search.” You will not need to supply a Medicare number for this option.
Enter the information that the forms ask for. It will ask for your zip code, because Medicare Advantage plans are available on a local basis, and the price of the plan may be affected by how you answer some of these questions. Once you are finished, click “Continue.” You will be prompted to review your entries, and if everything is correct, click continue. If you have information about your prescription drugs, you have the option to enter it here. If you want to skip this step, you can go ahead and click “Continue to Plan List.”
Compare plans. You will now be presented with a list of all Medicare Advantage plans available in your area. This list will include the plan name, contact information, costs, coverage information, and ratings. You can even enroll right from this list. If you’d like to compare plans side by side, you can select up to three plans by selecting the box to the left of the rows and then clicking “Compare Health Benefits.”
Call your favorite plans from this search individually, and ask questions. This is a chance to inquire about any restrictions on coverage for the most important services you need such as prior authorization, and it’s an opportunity to rate their customer service for yourself.