Zero-premium Medicare Advantage plans: What to know

The annual open enrollment period to join, switch, or cancel Medicare Advantage health insurance plans offered by private companies begins next week, and no-premium offers are expected to be more popular than ever as Americans feel the pressure of the feel inflation.

Beginning October 15 and through December 7, individuals age 65 or younger with certain disabilities who qualify under government guidelines may apply for coverage beginning in early 2023.

But not all plans are created equal, and experts say buyers are advised to do their research to ensure they’re getting optimal coverage, even if there’s no premium – and there could be other costs.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all program,” Melissa Brenner, an insurance broker in Charlotte, North Carolina, told the Associated Press. “They don’t want to look at a zero plan and just sign up for it.”

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Medicare Advantage plans are similar to traditional state plans, except patients typically have to visit health care providers or pharmacies within a network. Individuals with the private plans must continue to pay the monthly Medicare Part B cost to cover doctor visits.

Next year that cost will be $164.90 per month and is usually deducted from Social Security checks.

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Brenner recommends buyers check networks, co-pay costs, and annual allowance caps when comparing plans, rather than just looking at the price of the premiums (or lack thereof).

Plans without a premium can be great for people who are healthy and don’t need many medical services, but plans with lower coverage can pose more risk for those who aren’t, and result in significant upfront costs.

Experts recommend buyers to do their homework early on when comparing tariffs and not to wait until the end of the registration period in early December to register, because at the end of the day there is hectic and latecomers can be locked out.

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To enroll in Medicare, call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or visit ssa.gov/.

Julia Musto of FOX Business and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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