Every year, Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 marks the Medicare Annual Election Period, which is the time California’s Medicare-eligible individuals can enroll in a Medicare plan for the coming year. This is your opportunity to find the plan that best fits your needs.
With many plans to choose from, the process of evaluating Medicare plans can be confusing even during a regular year. 2020 has been a challenging year, to say the least. Many Californians have changed how they access and use health care. These shifts should rightly impact how you choose your 2021 Medicare health plan.
Here are several considerations to take into account. Look for a plan that:
Offers telehealth: Over the past several months, telehealth has helped individuals to safely access health care. It’s clear that telehealth will have a role to play in the way Californians continue to access care. It's important that your plan recognizes this shift from in-person to virtual care and provides coverage for telehealth visits as part of its commitment to helping you improve your health and wellbeing. Telehealth can be a lifeline for older adults, giving them safe access to care from their homes.
Values mental health: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in April and May of 2020, U.S. adults were more than three times as likely to screen positive for depression and/or anxiety disorders as in 2019. Even if you aren’t dealing with mental health challenges today, these feelings of stress or sadness could rear their head at any time. You want to be ready with a plan that offers good mental health coverage.
Fits your life: Convenient access to high-quality, affordable health care is more important than ever. Make sure your health plan takes an inclusive approach to care and provides a wide range of options that can fit your life. For instance, if English isn’t your preferred language, check to see if your plan provides services in other languages. Or, if you have special mobility requirements, take a look at what enhanced accessibility options your plan offers. It is important to find a plan with inclusive options that can support you.
Supports overall health and wellness (whole-person health): Many people are not participating in their regular healthy activities, like going to the gym. And going to the store to pick up groceries is not as normal as it used to be. These challenges make it important to focus on improving overall health. Many plans offer access to virtual wellness programs, fitness devices, nutrition-related services and other preventative care options to help people stay on top of their whole health. Make sure your Medicare plan offers these type of benefits.
Health care discussions often feel overwhelming and complicated, but ultimately annual enrollment should be seen as an opportunity. This is your time to reassess your needs and figure out what will fit your life. Think of it as a time to interview health plans available in California to find the best one for you in 2021. Even if you’re satisfied with your current plan, it may make sense to evaluate other options, considering the current healthcare environment.
Jeff Lesesne, MD, MBA, is the regional vice president for the Medicare West region for Anthem.