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2018 Medicare Coverage Changes You Should Know

Medicare isn’t easy to understand. With mind-numbing government rules, coverage details, and different parts, it’s nearly impossible to stay up to date on what’s happening with Medicare.

To add to the confusion, your Medicare plan doesn’t stay the same from year to year. There are always small and subtle changes. Coverage can decrease and prices can rise–and if you aren’t careful, you can wind up paying a lot more each month.

So, how do you take charge of your Medicare plan?

From October to December, it’s your one chance to make changes to your current or future Medicare plan. Before you do so, though, you need to know what’s changing.

Whether you’re a new Medicare subscriber or simply renewing your current plan, it’s crucial to stay on top of the changes ahead for 2018. Here’s what you need to look for in your Medicare plan.

Your Medicare ID Card is Changing

If you have a Medicare Part D policy, which covers prescription medications, you’ll need a new ID card starting in April 2018.

While your current ID card features your Social Security number, the updated cards won’t. It’s part of a government effort to limit identity theft and fraud. Your Social Security number will be replaced by a random ID number. That ID number will be what you use for everything.

Keep an eye on your mailbox throughout 2018. All Medicare Part D subscribers will receive a new card by April 2019.

Your Prescription Drug Cost May Decrease

For years, Medicare has had a gap in prescription drug coverage. Subscribers who used Medicare to cover prescription drugs had a federal limit; Medicare covered $3,750 worth of any medication purchase. Anything after that limit was reached had to be paid at full price out of your own pocket.

In 2018, your out-of-pocket medication costs will drop. Next year, you’ll only have to pay 35% of the cost of brand-name medications and 44% on generic drugs when you exceed the maximum. This is a 5% to 7% decrease from 2017.

Your Medicare Part B Premium May Decrease

Medicare Part B is a crucial piece of any senior’s coverage plan. Fortunately, the cost of Part B premiums is set to decrease in 2018.

For 2017, the average monthly cost of a Part B plan was $134. Some Social Security recipients saw a discount, paying only $109 instead each month. Those who earned too much money, however, were left paying full price.

2018 will lower monthly costs thanks to new cost of living adjustments (COLAs). The government will offer a 2% COLA to all Medicare recipients who make less than $85,000, lowering prices across the board.

You May Fall into a New Income Bracket

Along with the discounted in Medicare Part B premiums comes a change in Medicare income brackets. In 2018, the Medicare income brackets are changing to make Medicare Part B more affordable. More people will be moved into the High Income bracket, while others see lower premiums.

The High Income bracket used to start at $241,000 for individuals and $428,000 for couples. For 2018, Medicare participants who make $160,000 ($320,000 for a couple) will be placed in the highest possible bracket–and they will pay the highest possible premiums.

You may see a monthly cost increase thanks to this new division. Those in lower income brackets will see their monthly cost decrease.

Your Medicare Advantage Plan Will Have Different Coverage

Medicare Advantage (also known as Medicare Part C) participants will see the biggest changes in 2018. Because Medicare Advantage is purchased as additional coverage, it’s tied into the Affordable Care Act.

The price and coverage options available to Advantage enrollees may change–and your current plan may disappear entirely. As the government offers fewer rebates for companies offering Medicare Advantage plans, options are shrinking. Providers can change their plans, their premiums, and their coverage.

Make sure to look carefully at your Medicare Advantage plan. See if it will still be offered at the same cost and coverage level in 2018. If it’s no longer the same, or isn’t offered, you’ll need to find a new plan.

Stay Informed to Make The Most of Medicare

Don’t let the Medicare open enrollment period pass you by. It’s crucial to check in on your plan and all of the changes for 2018. If you don’t do your research, you could wind up paying more for less coverage.

You have only one chance to make changes to your Medicare enrollment, and it’s right now. Open enrollment ends in December, so make sure to adjust your plan before then!