These last few months of the year are a great time to save yourself a lot of money in medical expenses and lock in lower out-of-pocket costs for 2015. Whether you have Medicare or private insurance, now is the time to act.
My favorite strategies to maximize savings…
• Refill prescriptions now! If you take prescription medications regularly and have some form of prescription drug insurance (such as a Medicare Part D plan or an employer program), try to refill them all before December 31. (If you’ve used all the refills that were authorized for the prescription, ask your doctor for more and fill as many as your insurer will allow.) Since most plans have an annual deductible, if you wait until after the New Year, you’ll be paying that deductible out-of-pocket before the insurance even kicks in. I just ordered 90-day refills of three medications totaling $270 and paid only $12 out-of-pocket. If I had waited until January, I would have paid $250 (my deductible). Now I am stocked for several months. Exception: If you are already in the Medicare Part D “donut hole” for 2014 (meaning your medications have already totaled more than $2,850), you’ll actually save more by waiting until after the first of the year when your drug program starts over, making out-of-pocket costs lower.
• Get those tests done. Is it time for that dreaded colonoscopy or another visit to the lab for some blood work? If so, you’ll likely save more money by getting those tests done this year rather than early next year. Similar to drug deductibles, you’ve most likely already met your 2014 medical deductible. By having your tests or other procedures done now, your only costs will be the co-payments (if any) required by your insurance plan. This is an especially useful tip if you have a high-deductible plan where you might have to pay the first $1,000 or more.
• Take a hard look at your coverage. If you are on Medicare, bought your coverage through one of the Health Exchanges provided by the Affordable Care Act or have several plan options offered by your employer, you can make switches during the “open-enrollment” period. (Call your insurer or your state’s insurance department if you haven’t received information on this.) Medicare open-enrollment runs this year from October 15 to December 7. The Health Exchange open period starts November 15 and ends February 15, 2015. During those periods, you can switch plans, such as from Medicare to a Medicare Advantage program (or vice versa) or from one Exchange plan to another and/or pick up new coverage, such as drug insurance. A friend of mine is planning to lock in more than $1,500 in premium savings for 2015 by opting into a new Medicare Advantage plan offered in his state. Insider tip: Carefully review changes that are being made to your current health insurance (including Medicare and Medigap plans) for 2015. Look especially closely to make sure that the medications you are taking are still covered and that the hospitals and doctors you use are still in the network (if the plan uses only certain doctors and hospitals). After the open-enrollment period, you cannot change your plan until next fall.