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Retirement Hacks: Medicare Advantage enrollment period is coming to an end – how to make sense of your healthcare before it’s too late

Many Medicare Advantage participants choose their plans because of hearing, dental and vision coverage.

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The Medicare Advantage enrollment deadline is March 31, and those still looking to change healthcare plans should do their research on coverage before signing up. 

Retirement Tip of the Week: Do a deep dive into the costs, benefits and rules before signing up for any healthcare plan – a mistake could be quite expensive. 

Eight in 10 people said their understanding of their Medicare Advantage plan is “good” or “very good,” according to a survey of more than 1,000 participants who were 65 or older and said they were currently or previously enrolled in Medicare Advantage. But another four in 10 think they don’t have to stay in-network, which can be a mistake with a big price tag attached. 

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a health plan, whether it’s one offered through an employer, the marketplace or Medicare. A few of the top factors include what medical services are offered based on personal health history and chronic illnesses, proximity to facilities and hospitals needed and in-network status of preferred doctors. 

Want more actionable tips for your retirement savings journey? Read MarketWatch’s Retirement Hacks column

A quarter of people, for example, said they chose their Medicare Advantage plans because they offer dental, vision and/or hearing services, which is not currently available under Medicare.

Picking a plan can be complex. Aside from the different types of plans, like Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO), Private Fee-for-Service and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans, depending on the option, additional services include transportation to doctor visits or services to promote wellness.  

You can find more information about your particular plan from the annual notice of change, which will explain coverage and cost adjustments and is sent by Sept. 30. Your plan will also send an evidence of coverage document explaining the details of the policy by Oct. 15. If you don’t receive these, ask for them.  

Healthcare is always expensive, but it costs more as time goes on. Aside from inflation, Americans can expect to spend more in healthcare and medicine as they age, and then later in life when they need long-term care and assistance. The average couple retiring at 65 in 2021 should plan to spend $300,000 in healthcare in retirement, not including long-term care. For single men retiring at 65, that amount was $143,000, and for women, it was $157,000 (because they tend to live longer).

Also see: 70% of people don’t save money for future healthcare costs – do you?

There are numerous resources available for individuals unsure of what type of coverage they need. has a “Medicare & You” handbook with information on available plans across the country, and there are also financial and medical professionals who offer consulting services to make sense of the numerous options available. State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, also known as SHIP, are also available to answer questions about health plans.

Medicare Advantage’s enrollment period is only available for beneficiaries who want to choose a new Medicare Advantage plan or switch to Original Medicare (not for people who want to switch from Original Medicare). There are special enrollment periods for people with major life events, such as loss of insurance coverage or a move.

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