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5 tips for selecting your Medicare coverage before Dec. 7

If you have Medicare but haven’t selected a 2017 Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan, the Dec. 7 annual enrollment deadline is quickly approaching. Here are five simple steps to help you make the best decision.

1. Review your current Medicare health plan. Analyze how much you’ve spent on health care during the past year, including hospital expenses, prescriptions and doctor bills. This helps you benchmark your 2017 health care expenses and determine if your current Medicare plan still meets your needs.

2. Select the type of Medicare plan that best fits your needs. Options include:

■ Original Medicare, which provides basic coverage for medical expenses without coverage for most prescriptions, and includes cost-sharing in the form of deductibles and coinsurance. This is Medicare Parts A and B.

■ Medicare Advantage, which includes all of the coverage offered under Original Medicare through a private insurer, and may include extra benefits, such as dental, hearing and vision coverage, a nurse advice line and fitness program, as well as prescription drug coverage. Medicare Advantage plans are steadily gaining popularity, with the number of enrollees more than tripling since 2004 to 17.7 million or nearly a third of Medicare beneficiaries, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This is Medicare Part C.

■ Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, which offer coverage for prescription medications, and can be added to Original Medicare, a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan or some Medicare Advantage Plans that do not include prescription drug coverage. This is Medicare Part D.

■ Medicare Supplement Plans, which pay some costs not paid by Original Medicare, like deductibles and coinsurance. Enrollment in a Medicare Supplement plan is not limited to the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period and these plans do not have a set provider network.

3. Comparison hhop. Once you choose the type of Medicare plan that best fits your needs, research the costs, benefits and network of doctors and hospitals associated with each plan. Check to see if your hospital and doctors are included.

4. Consider the “extras” included. Some Medicare Advantage plans include extra benefits, such as a fitness program and exercise classes specifically designed for people with Medicare. Others include dental, vision and hearing benefits. Determine how important these extra benefits are to your lifestyle and wellness needs.

5. Seek help. Shopping for a Medicare plan can be daunting, but there are resources available to assist you. You can call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or TTY: 1-877-486-2048 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 2017 Medicare plan information. And websites like www.Medicare.gov and www.humana-Medicare.com can help you research plans available in your area before the Dec. 7 Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan annual enrollment deadline.

It’s also important to note that the plan you select by Dec. 7 will be your Medicare plan for all of 2017, with few exceptions, so it’s smart to carefully research your options.

Remember, the time to act is now. Making sure you have the right health plan in place is one of the best ways to invest in your health.

Rick Beavin is the Desert States president for Humana’s Senior Products. Humana Inc. is a for-profit American health insurance company based in Louisville, Kentucky. Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older and for the disabled.

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