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Missouri Medicare Patients Could Save Money This Enrollment Season By Switching Plans

Enrollment for Missouri Medicare begins Tuesday and lasts until early December.
Susannah Lohr
St. Louis Public Radio
Enrollment for Missouri Medicare begins Tuesday and lasts until early December.

Health officials are urging Missouri’s 1.2 million Medicare enrollees to research new plans to save money during this year’s open enrollment.

Enrollment in the state-funded health insurance program for older adults begins Tuesday and lasts until early December. Patients can save money by researching and changing plans, federal officials said.

“We’ve seen people save thousands of dollars by switching their prescription drug plan from one year to the next,” said Julie Brookhart, a spokeswoman for the Kansas City regional office of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers the program.

During open enrollment, people can tweak their coverage by signing up for new plans from traditional Medicare plans or from Medicare Advantage, Medicare plans from private companies that also offer dental, vision and other expanded benefits.

Julie Brookhart detailed a new law that changed Medicare cards to prevent identity theft.
Credit Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio
Julie Brookhart of the Kansas City Regional Office for the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services says enrollees should research new plans each year.

Most enrollees don’t take the time to research plans annually, Brookhart said. But a “set-it-and-forget-it” mentality may not be the best, especially for older Americans whose health care and prescription needs change from year to year.

Additionally, plans often change which prescriptions and services they cover and how much they charge, she said.

“You might add on a drug throughout the year that’s very costly your current plan doesn’t cover," Brookhart said. "You may not be needing to be on a prescription you used to be on, so maybe you can switch because of that as well.”

In 2020, consumers/Medicare recipients will see lower costs for many Advantage and Part D prescription plans as more companies enter the Medicare market and offer more coverage options.

Many plans will cost less this year because more companies are entering the field, Brookhart said. That, as well as more generics coming online, means prices are staying low.

“Because there is a lot of competition, that competition is keeping prices lower,” she said. 

Some Medicare Advantage plans will cover nontraditional benefits, including gym memberships, food for service dogs and mobility aids such as grab bars for homes.

The Medicare website has an online tool that will automatically input prescriptions when a patient searches for a plan. It can then calculate which option offers the best coverage and price for those prescriptions in 2020.

Medicare enrollees can use the updated web-based plan finder tool to compare prices and coverage. People can also get in-person enrollment assistance through CLAIM, the Missouri state health insurance assistance program, by calling 800-390-3330, or by calling 800-MEDICARE.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @Petit_Smudge

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.