It’s that time of year for this aging life care specialist to tell families about Medicare open enrollment, October 15-December 7, 2015. I remind families that while Medicare Advantage plans are less costly, you get what you pay for. This is especially true when it comes to post hospitalization rehabilitation. Not every nursing home will accept someone on an Advantage Plan. And if they do, they are very strict about the number of days for rehab.

And then there is Medicare Part D to consider. Part D covers medications.  One should have a drug plan even if one is not taking medications at the moment. Not only for the practicality of the matter, but because one is financially penalized for not having a Part D plan. You can learn more about that penalty as well as other Medicare topics at Medicare.gov.

For those who have Part D, monthly premiums are going up. According to Avalere Health Consultancy Company, there will be an 8% increase across the board, while the top 5 Rx drug plans will see a double digit premium increase. This will bring the average cost to $40/month. Further, in the Medicare Advantage programs, there will be fewer programs offering a $0 deductible.

During this October-December window you can:

Switch your Medicare D prescription drug plan for 2016.

Switch from regular Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.

Choose to leave a Medicare Advantage plan and enroll in regular Medicare with a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan.

There’s a yearly Medicare Advantage dis enrollment period, which specifically allows those in a Medicare Advantage plan to switch back to regular Medicare. This runs from January 1 to February 15th.  So yes, you have two opportunities to do this.

Between Part D costs going up, and no increase in Social Security payments for the new year, this aging life care specialist is encouraging families to carefully review their current drug plan and consider, if appropriate, other plan options.