What’s Changing with Medicare in 2019?

Article contributed by 
Lindsay Engle, Editor for Medicare
October 15, 2018

As our friends, relatives and loved one’s age they may need help managing their health conditions, treatments, or with Medicare; this means you may find yourself in the role as caregiver.

When you are a caregiver, you may be asked to make recommendations or decisions in all those areas, in addition to helping with daily activities. When you understand the new changes in Medicare and the various enrollment periods, you’ll be in a better position to make important decisions for your loved one’s healthcare needs.

What’s Changing with Medicare in 2019?

There are a lot of changes happening in the next year, some of the changes will affect all beneficiaries, while others will apply to individuals on certain plans. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) updated their handbook that beneficiaries receive in the fall.

CMS also made the online Medicare Plan Finder tool easier to use, including a “coverage wizard” that helps enrollees compare out-of-pocket costs and coverage options between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans.

Medicare Part A and B Increases in 2019

The new 2019 changes will take place January 1st and be in effect all year. Medicare changes things regularly, so beneficiaries should expect changes annually. As the economy grows stronger and inflation occurs, premiums and deductibles are expected to rise.

Part A Premium Increases

Most beneficiaries don’t have to pay a Medicare Part A premium.  If you have fewer than 40 quarters of employment or you’re disabled and pay a monthly premium to voluntarily enroll in Medicare Part A you may notice an increase.

If you had at least 30 quarters or were married to someone with at least 30 quarters of coverage, you may buy into Part A at a reduced monthly rate, which will be $240 in 2019, an $8 increase from this year.

Certain individuals who have exhausted other entitlement will pay the full premium which increased $15 since last year to $437 a month for 2019.

Part A Deductible Increases

The Part A deductible will increase $24 and be $1,340 in 2019. Beneficiaries with Traditional Medicare as their only coverage will be expected to pay this when they are admitted to the hospital.

Medicare beneficiaries will be required to pay a coinsurance amount of $341 per day for the 61st through 90th day of hospitalization in 2019. In 2018, the amount was $335 per day from days 61 to 90. For lifetime reserve days the amount went up for $670 to $682 per day.

Medicare beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities can expect the daily coinsurance for days 21 through 100 of extended care services in a benefit period to be $170.50 in 2019, this is an increase from $167.50 in 2018.

Part B Premium Increases

The new premium for 2019 will be $135.50 which is only $1.50 more per month. There are about 2 million Medicare beneficiaries that will pay less than the full amount because of the hold harmless provision which limits certain beneficiaries increase in their Part B premium to be no greater than the increase in their Social Security benefits.

The income-related monthly adjustment amount (IRMAA) affects roughly 5 percent of people with Medicare Part B.

In 2019, another new bracket has been added, further increasing Part B premiums for enrollees with very high incomes. If your income is $500,000 or more ($750,000 or more for a married couple) then you will pay $460.50 a month for Part B in 2019.

Part B Deductible Increase

The Part B deductible will see a $2 increase, from $183 to $185 in 2019. Beneficiaries with a Medicare Supplement Plan C or Plan F won’t notice anything with this increase, since their plans cover this deductible.

Medicare Advantage plan enrollees have low copays and deductibles that won’t necessarily increase with the Part B deductible.

Help Affording Medicare Increases

Having additional coverage to Medicare will help cover the costs of many of these increases, talking to a licensed insurance expert can make your life easier and help you gain confidence in your health care coverage.

The Return of the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP) will take the place of the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) which was January 1 through February 14 every year. The MADP would only allow beneficiaries to disenroll from their Medicare Advantage coverage and switch back to Original Medicare, they couldn’t switch from MA plan to MA plan.

There are some things beneficiaries will be able to do during the OEP, like:

  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • They can only make one change, so choose wisely during the OEP.
  • Disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and switch back to Traditional Medicare with or without a Part D plan.

Insurance is becoming more beneficial to Medicare beneficiaries in 2019. The new Medicare changes will make changing from an unsuitable Medicare Advantage plan to a more suitable plan, possible. The most popular plans are Plan F & Plan G. However, Plan F will be discontinued come 2020, so Medicare Plan G is the next best option.

This new law does allow beneficiaries to change plans; however, it’s important for them to understand that they won’t be able to switch Part D Prescription Drug plans during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period.

Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan need to make changes to their Part D Prescription Drug plan during AEP (October 15 through December 7 of every year).

Each year by September 30th, Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from their current insurance carrier for their Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription drug plan providers.

When this information is received it’s important that you look at the changes and adjust coverage if needed. CMS will post plan changes for the following year in October, months before the new year. Medicare.gov is an incredible resource for caregivers; they can use it to compare plans side by side, look up answers to questions they have and learn more about Medicare.

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