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How to save big on Medicare

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

Picking the right Medicare plan is retirement planning 101. Choosing wisely can save you a bundle.

Medicare open enrollment starts Saturday, Oct. 15, and runs through Dec. 7. Compared to previous years, open enrollment both starts and ends early. I don't know about you, but our mailbox has been filled daily for the last couple of weeks with Medicare and Part D prescription drug coverage sales materials.

If you're already living in retirement and receiving Medicare, will you change plans? Statistically, the answer is probably no. Allsup, a company that helps people secure appropriate Medicare and Social Security Disability benefits, surveyed Medicare recipients and found that 1 percent will definitely change their Medicare plan this year and 4 percent will probably change. Another 5 percent aren't sure. The rest will probably or definitely keep their current coverage.

The Allsup study says 43 percent of seniors judge a plan by whether it is accepted by the doctors and specialists they rely on. Similarly, 31 percent report making sure doctors take their coverage is the biggest challenge in changing plans.

If their physicians are participants, 80 percent of those surveyed believe their benefits are worth the money they spend on premiums.

I'm not quite old enough for Medicare, though my husband is. But just for the heck of it, I plugged my information into Medicare.gov/find-a-plan. I was shocked that the cheapest Part D prescription drug plan covering the drugs I take was $272 a year, and the most expensive was $1,860.

So even if you are as happy as a clam with the coverage you have now, it doesn't cost a thing to check out the alternatives. And there's no point in paying more than you have to.

Tomorrow, I'm going to outline all the changes to Medicare in 2012.

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