During the Medicare open enrollment period running October 15-December 7, seniors will be able to enroll in or alter their Medicare coverage for 2022. Among the changes facing enrollees, according to Dave Rich, CEO of Ensurem, a Largo, Fla.-based insurance technology and product distribution firm, are cost increases—deductibles for Medicare Part A (hospitalization) and Part B (visits to doctors and testing) have increased, as have the Part B and recommended Part D premium.
These increases, Rich observes, come at a time of uncertainty for the U.S. economy, which is still struggling with the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “In this atmosphere, it is more important than ever that seniors be able to navigate the complex Medicare insurance market and find the plan that best fits their needs,” Rich said.
While the cost increases announced for Medicare 2022 might seem minor, Rich notes they can have a significant impact on enrollees’ coverage and concomitant budget requirements. Citing information from HelpAdvisor.com and The Chartis Group, changes for 2022 include:
- The average premium for Medicare Advantage plans will be lower in 2022 at $19 per month as compared to $21.22 last year.
- Part B deductible will go up from $203 to $217.
- Part B premium will go up from $148.50 to $158.50.
- The average 2022 premium for Part D coverage will be $33 per month; an increase of $1.53 from 2021 ($31.47).
These increases are only the beginning of the changes seniors can expect across the Medicare insurance landscape. In 2021, 42% of Medicare-eligible beneficiaries were enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans, a percentage almost certain to increase. Along with this increase in participation, says Rich, will come an equally almost certain increase in the number and variety of Medicare Advantage plans available.
Nationwide, there were a total of 3,550 Medicare Advantage plans offered in 2021, creating a choice, for the average Medicare beneficiary, among 33 different available offerings.
It’s important to note, Rich adds, that the annual open enrollment period does not affect nor apply to Medicare Supplement plans as these plans are available without medical underwriting during the beneficiary’s initial enrollment period, and during limited special enrollment periods. Seniors can purchase Medigap outside of these periods, but there are no guarantees the underwriter will issue a policy.
Insurance plans, Rich points out, tend to be somewhat detailed documents. Carefully going through more than 30 of them, under time pressure and with a great deal at stake, is a daunting prospect for most people. Seniors should seek guidance through this bewildering landscape. However they choose to approach this Medicare period, Rich advises seniors to remember that the process is inherently messy and complicated—and is rapidly becoming even more so.
“It’s a maze,” Rich says. “To avoid getting unneeded coverage, to make sure they have the coverage they do need, and to keep their costs to a minimum, seniors need to do research, seek advice, and be prepared.”