2021 Medicare Changes: Understanding Price and Enrollment Updates

In 2021, Medicare will undergo some significant changes. Some of those changes will benefit people who use the program, but enrollees can also expect higher premiums and deductibles for many Medicare Advantage plans. By searching online, you can gain a better understanding of these changes and choose insurance options that work for you (without putting you over your budget).

What to Know About Medicare Changes for 2021

Per the Social Security Act, each year’s Medicare premiums, coinsurance rates, and deductibles undergo an adjustment. That typically means that they cost more due to inflation - and unfortunately, many people will pay more for their Medicare Advantage coverage in 2021.

However, other changes expand the open enrollment period for certain Medicare enrollees. As a whole, the program will cover a wider range of healthcare needs. For example, Medicare now provides coverage for a limited number of acupuncture visits for chronic lower back pain.

Some key changes to keep in mind:

  • Medicare now covers more telehealth visits and other virtual services. This trend was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the changes are likely to stay - if you prefer using e-health and telehealth services, you’ll have more options than ever before.
  • The annual deductible for Medicare Part B beneficiaries is $203, which is $5 more than 2020’s $198 deductible.
  • The standard monthly premium for people enrolled in Medicare Part B will be $148.50 in 2021. That’s a modest increase of $3.90 from 2020’s $144.60 monthly premium.
  • People with diabetes may be able to save on out-of-pocket insulin costs by joining a Medicare drug plan that participates in the Part D Senior Savings Model.

Other basic changes might affect your coverage, but you might not be aware of them until you actually need health services. For instance, Medicare Part A covers certain home health care services, skilled nursing facilities, and inpatient hospital services. Medicare Part A deductibles have increased; the inpatient hospital deductible, for instance, costs $1,484 in 2021. That’s a $76 increase over 2020’s deductible.

While Medicare continues to offer excellent coverage, prices will rise this year, and some older adults might find that their coverage is limited in certain ways. Medicare can seem needlessly complex, but there’s good news: Seniors can manage the cost of healthcare by taking advantage of Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare supplement plans.

Understanding Medicare Advantage and Supplemental Insurance

Original Medicare provides adequate coverage for some individuals, but many people prefer to use Medicare Advantage Plans. Some also choose Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policies.

In a Medicare Advantage Plan, a private company manages your coverage; the company receives money from the federal government to provide a policy that meets certain guidelines. Many Medicare Advantage plans also cover things that Original Medicare won’t pay for (for instance, certain health-related vision, dental, and hearing services).

Medigap coverage works similarly, but typically adds coverage to Original Medicare. A private company provides coverage for services that Medicare won’t cover. However, Medicare doesn’t pay for any of the costs of these policies - you’ll pay a premium for supplemental insurance, but all plans must offer the same basic benefits.

To make sure you have the coverage you need to get the health care services you need, you’ll want to research all of your options. The internet makes this process easier. With a quick search, you can compare Medigap and Medicare Advantage policies and learn more about how they work.

When looking online, keep these tips in mind:

  • Read carefully about all of your options. Look for at least 3-4 insurance companies offering Medicare Advantage or Medigap coverage. Don’t make a decision until you’ve compared rates and coverage information.
  • Understand your right to find coverage. While the standard Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period is closed for 2021, you may still be able to switch, join, or drop plans if special circumstances apply. For example, if you move out of your current plan’s service area, you lose your coverage, or you move into a skilled nursing facility, you may qualify for special enrollment.
  • Communicate with your provider. Make sure you’re confident with your choice of provider. Communicating with a representative is an effective way to get answers to questions and to learn more about how your coverage works.

You’ll want to compare carefully; while all plans have some of the same basic features, you might find significant differences between different insurance providers.

Researching Your Medicare Options Online

The internet allows you to learn about Medicare Advantage, Medigap, and other tools that will help you navigate the annual changes that affect your plan. Opting into a supplemental plan could give you peace of mind - you’ll know that you have coverage for the health services you need without worrying about your budget.

However, research is extremely important. Starting with an online search, look for several different websites from trusted providers. Read carefully, comparing all coverage claims with trusted resources like Medicare.gov. With some basic research, you can make an informed decision with complete confidence.