October 9th, 2020 BY Jennifer Davis
We’re a week away from Medicare Open Enrollment, the one time during the year that everyone with a current Medicare plan can make changes to their coverage for the next year. If you need a refresher on what you can do during open enrollment, head over to our recent post on that subject for a breakdown.
Today’s post is about how to stay safe this enrollment season, specifically when it comes to how you sign up for a new health plan.
This year has been a challenge for millions of people across the country and around the world — and that’s putting it mildly.
And with plenty of uncertainty to come as we wait for a vaccine, it’s important to keep doing what we’ve been doing since March: keep our distance, wash our hands and wear face masks when in public.
So how are you supposed to talk to someone about your Medicare options in 2021 if meeting an agent at a coffee shop isn’t feasible right now?
Fortunately, technology exists that makes it easier than ever to shop, compare and sign up for coverage for next year, all without leaving the safety and comfort of home.
Online enrollment might not be your preferred way to buy health insurance. But it does solve some very real problems during the enrollment period.
Still feel like venturing out into a public space to buy health insurance? Here are four good reasons to stay home and shop instead.
#1) It’ll help keep you safe.
You can’t get sick if you don’t leave your house. Of course, you’ll have to leave your home occasionally. But while staying home full time is impractical — and impossible — 100% of the time, the less you leave home, the better during a pandemic.
Older people face significantly higher risks than their younger friends and family. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80% of COVID-19 deaths have been from people ages 65 and older. That means 8 out of 10 people who’ve died from this disease are Medicare eligible.
You may not be able to avoid trips out to the grocery store, your doctor’s office or a quick walk in the neighborhood to stretch your legs, but you can minimize your overall exposure by avoiding unnecessary trips.
Talking about your Medicare plan options is important. But it can be done entirely over the phone or online.
Browsing Medicare Advantage options or Part D drug plans from the safety of your home means you don’t have to get ready, don a mask and meet a stranger for a sales pitch over coffee.
Instead, brew your own pot of coffee, grab your current plan documents and spend a leisurely afternoon comparing your options online to what you have already. There’s no need to sign up in person. And staying home when you can could help reduce your risk of getting sick.
#2) It’ll help keep others safe, too.
As you’ve no doubt heard frequently since March, your mask protects others and their masks protect you. The best way to mitigate spread of this virus (or any virus) is to keep your distance and keep your germs to yourself.
Enrolling online in a Medicare plan ensures that you protect other people, not just yourself.
You’ll also help in-person Medicare agents lower their risk of exposure.
Some people, like those without internet access or those who just can’t navigate a website without assistance, may have no choice but to meet with an agent in person. By staying home and using online enrollment options yourself, you help keep the number of in-person visits lower for Medicare agents.
Virtual meetings have become a staple of 2020, with everything from jobs to doctor’s offices moving operations online rather than using a physical space. By now, you’re probably familiar with how to find the information that you need online. Enrolling in a health insurance plan over the internet is no different, though it can seem daunting if you’ve never tried it.
But a web-based shopping experience can help protect you and the people around you, so it’s worth considering as we head into open enrollment.
And if you’re one of those people who struggles with website navigation? That’s okay! Know that there are options for calling an agent to talk about your Medicare options instead.
#3) You’ll be able to see a broader range of plans.
With over 5,000 Medicare Advantage plans and nearly 1,500 Part D drug plans on the market in 2021, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from for next year. Of course, plan availability depends on where you live, with some states boasting hundreds of plans and others offering a few dozen.
But just like when you look for a grill or a pair of jeans, shopping online tends to give you more options from a wider range of sellers. You could go to individual stores and compare their products, then go to a new store and do the same thing a few more times, but it would be cumbersome to shop this way.
The same is true of health insurance, especially when it comes to Medicare. With so many private Medicare plans on the market from top carriers in 2021 — like Humana, BlueCross BlueShield and UnitedHealthcare, to name a few — comparing them online is a convenient way to see what’s available where you live.
The internet makes it easier to access a broader range of plans using a private marketplace like the one at our sister site, MedicareEnrollment.com. Here, you can compare plan options in your area from the nation’s top carriers, all in one convenient location.
You’ve only got from October 15th through December 7th to update your Medicare coverage for 2021. Make the most of the time by using a private marketplace to browse a wider range of plans.
#4) You can compare options more easily.
And while we’re on the subject of convenience, online shopping has become the epitome of 21st century technology in terms of making our lives easier. For many things these days, you don’t have to step foot into a store if you don’t want to.
That convenience extends to your Medicare plan options.
Not only can you protect yourself and others, and gain access to a wider range of plans using an online marketplace, but shopping online also makes it even easier to compare your choices against each other. You can compare benefits, hone in on what’s important to you and find carriers and plans that fit your criteria.
That’s not to say that technology is a perfect solution. You might face some hiccups as you navigate Medicare Open Enrollment.
But this year more than usual, shopping online for your Medicare coverage may be a better strategy. Staying home lowers your risk of getting sick and helps protect other people from getting sick, too. You’ll be able to see more options from more carriers all at once, and you can easily compare those plans side by side online.
Open enrollment gives you the perfect chance to see if you’ve got the right coverage for next year. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in for an online shopping session in the comfort of your own home.