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Why now isn’t the right time to search for a Medicare Advantage plan

Dear Toni: If I change to a Medicare Advantage plan in the fall and find out it’s not working for me, what are my chances of returning to Medicare and a supplement? I have a Medicare supplement Plan F that is over $300 monthly and am looking for something more reasonable. I am 78 and in fairly good health.

I have spent time searching on Medicare.gov for what different Medicare Advantage plans offer but cannot find out which doctors and hospitals are in the networks. I am just as confused right now as when I started. — Sally, Atlanta

Dear Sally: July is not the correct time to search for a Medicare Advantage Plan. The new plans are released for the public to begin viewing Oct. 1, with enrollment starting Oct. 15 and ending Dec. 7. Your new plan would begin Jan. 1.

The Advantage plans will be different for 2025 from what you have looked at recently on Medicare.gov.

You would have a specific amount of time — 12 months — to re-enroll in your current Medicare supplement plan and drop the Advantage plan if you are dissatisfied.

Since you are concerned about paying $300 monthly for Plan F, I would suggest changing your supplement to a less expensive supplement plan. Plans G or N have lower premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs than Plan F, which has zero out-of-pocket cost.

You will have to answer medical underwriting questions to qualify for the supplement plan that you pick. Then you will know if changing to a Medicare Advantage plan is the right option for you.

Here are the differences between Plan G and Plan N:

■ Plan G offers lower premiums and the same benefits as Plan F except the Medicare Part B deductible is not covered and will be paid for by the beneficiary. The Part B deductible for 2024 is $240, which is Plan G’s out-of-pocket cost.

■ Plan N generally has a lower premium than Plan G with higher out-of-pocket costs. There is a $20 copay for a doctor’s visit and a $50 copay for the emergency room. The Part B deductible is also not covered, and the Part B excess charges are not paid for by the insurance company (unlike Plan G).

You asked about specific doctors or hospitals accepting Medicare Advantage plans. Most of the hospitals are included in many of the Advantage networks where you live. Primary care physicians or specialists are a different story because they accept Advantage plans differently.

Also, be aware that doctors and hospitals can stop accepting a specific plan at any time of the year.

Toni King is an author and columnist on Medicare and health insurance issues. If you have a Medicare question, email info@tonisays.com or call 832-519-8664.

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