More on the menu for Medicare in 2023

More on the menu for Medicare in 2023

Magdalena Torres, 84, fills out her paperwork to receive a free senior flu shot from Walgreens Oct. 11 during the 26th annual Prime Time 50+ Expo at Embassy Suites
in Albuquerque. Open enrollment for Medicare began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7.
Open enrollment for beWellnm, New Mexico’s state exchange, runs Nov. 1 through Jan. 15. (Chancey Bush/Diary)

For the hundred of thousands of New Mexicans eligible for Medicare, lower premiums and more plans in 2023 is good news.

Open enrollment for next year’s coverage began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7. People who want to keep their current Medicare coverage do not need to reenroll. People qualifying for the first time can sign up anytime starting three months before they turn 65 and ending three months after their birthday month. But for everyone else — those who want to review their coverage or make changes, now is the time.

“It’s just important that Medicare beneficiaries really take time to look at their various options and make sure that the plan that they’re selecting is a plan that’s going to meet their specific health care needs,” said Janice Torrez, president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico.

People who qualify for Medicare — generally those 65 years or older or people with a disability that makes them eligible — can choose to use traditional Medicare, find a prescription drug plan, get a Medicare supplemental insurance policy or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan at this time.

Nationally, average premiums for Medicare Advantage plans are expected to decrease by nearly 8% in 2023, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. But in New Mexico that number is 18% — from an average of $14.62 in 2022 to $11.98 for 2023. Plus the number of plans available in the state increased from 69 this year to 72 for next year, giving older adults more choice.

Changes in local offerings

BCBSNM, which offered its Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans in 12 counties last year, is expanding to 29 counties this year.

Presbyterian Health Plan launched a new Medicare Advantage plan aimed at people who want predictability in their health care costs but also some flexibility. The Ultra Flex Plan, as it’s called, provides out-of-network service for those that travel, said Brandon Fryar, president of Presbyterian Health Plan. It also comes with $860 tied to a debit card that can be used for benefits such as eyewear, acupuncture, dental or chiropractic services.

When it comes to picking a plan, Fryar recommends not getting information from targeted advertising or call centers but from somebody that really knows Medicare.

“Oftentimes, it’s a trusted broker in the community that you can go and visit with,” Fryar said.

Presbyterian has licensed health plan consultants available at 800-346-4766 (TTY 711) that can walk people through the process and help them determine their health care insurance needs. BCBSNM offers drop-in hours at 5701 Balloon Fiesta Parkway, Monday through Friday 9 am until 5 pm, until Dec. 7 so people can meet with free certified brokers and get guidance.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recommend contacting local State Health Insurance Assistance Programs for free personalized health insurance counseling. In this state, that’s the New Mexico Aging & Disability Resource Center at 800-432-2080 or nmaging.state.nm.us.

The center also recommends using Medicare Plan Finder, a tool available on medicare.gov, to do side-by-side comparisons of costs and coverage. The tool was streamlined this fall and updated with 2023 health and drug plans on Oct. 1. Additionally, 1-800-MEDICARE is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide help in English and Spanish as well as language support in over 200 languages.

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