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Senior Living

6 tips for making the most of your Medicare plan

(BPT) - If you consider yourself a savvy consumer who likes to make sure you’re getting the most value for your money, have you stopped to consider whether you’re applying those same prudent practices to your Medicare benefits?

Maximizing those benefits can help with more than just saving money. It could help improve your health as well.

Here are six tips to help ensure you get the most out of your Medicare coverage this year.

1) Learn the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage. More than 63 million Americans made Medicare coverage decisions last fall. Some opted for Original Medicare, but one in three chose Medicare Advantage, which combines Medicare Parts A and B. Many Medicare Advantage plans also offer prescription drug coverage and valuable extras, like dental, hearing and vision care. Understanding those additional benefits and features can help you make the most of your plan.

2) Review what your policy covers — and use those benefits. You can usually find coverage and benefits information on your insurer’s website or in plan documents sent through the mail. Extra benefits and features included in many Medicare Advantage plans cover dental exams and cleanings, hearing and vision exams, and fitness benefits.

For example, UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans provide access to Renew Active, which features a gym membership, one-on-one fitness consultation, group fitness classes, online brain games and more. Nearly 300,000 members also have access to an activity tracker to help them achieve health and wellness goals. Eligible members also receive credits each quarter to buy approved over-the-counter (OTC) health products like vitamins and supplements, pain relievers, first aid items and more. Check your plan documents for information.

3) Stay in-network as much as possible. Most Medicare Advantage plans work with a network of doctors and hospitals to coordinate their members’ care. Plans negotiate lower rates with the doctors and hospitals in their network, which means members pay a lower cost when they access care.

UnitedHealthcare plans make it easier for members to get care as quickly as possible from its large network of health care professionals. The customer service team will even help members find a specialist and schedule an appointment for them.

Some Medicare Advantage plans offer out-of-network coverage, typically at a higher cost. So staying in-network is one of the best things you can do to help manage your health care costs.

4) Take advantage of preventive care benefits. Original Medicare offers all beneficiaries an Annual Wellness Visit. Some preventive screenings, like mammograms and colonoscopies, are also included. These services can help catch health problems early, when they’re usually easier to treat. Your Annual Wellness Visit is a good opportunity to sit down with your doctor and develop a plan to help you achieve your best health in the year ahead.

A Medicare Advantage plan from UnitedHealthcare will even bring preventive care into your own living room through the HouseCalls program. The program helps make it easier for members to get important information about their medications and communicate with health providers about how their care fits with their health needs and budget.

Tip 5: Plan yearly expenses with the out-of-pocket maximum in mind. Medicare costs can vary widely for individuals based on their situation and type of coverage.

Original Medicare generally covers 80 percent of a person’s Part A and Part B expenses, which include services such as doctor visits, hospital stays and lab tests. The individual is responsible for the other 20 percent, with no annual limit on out-of-pocket costs.

Medicare Advantage plans offer predictable copays and cap your annual out-of-pocket expenses. Once you reach the out-of-pocket max set by your plan, all additional costs for Medicare-covered services for the rest of the year are covered at 100 percent.

6) Save money on prescription drugs. Prescription drug coverage isn’t included with Original Medicare (Parts A and B). Some people opt to enroll in a stand-alone Part D plan, but many choose a Medicare Advantage plan, which often includes prescription coverage.

Using home delivery pharmacy benefits can be one way to save money — not to mention trips to the pharmacy. With some home delivery pharmacies, you can order a three-month supply of medication for a lower cost than you would pay if you got the same supply at a local drug store.

If you prefer to use a retail pharmacy, check whether your plan has a preferred pharmacy network, which can mean a lower copay. Switching to an alternative drug can be another way to save money. Ask your doctor if there’s a generic drug or one on a lower tier of your plan’s formulary (the list of covered drugs) that could work just as well for you.

The bottom line

Following these tips to get the most out of your Medicare plan could be doubly rewarding — more money in your wallet and better health to help you live your best life.

To learn more, visit http://www.advantageuhc.com/.

Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.