Countdown To Retirement

Deadline for Medicare Open Enrollment is approaching

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Open enrollment for Medicare’s 2021 benefit period will close on December 7. For many people 65 and older, this is the only time of year to make a change to their federal health insurance coverage. It’s important to know your coverage needs and what’s available.

Medicare Part A is hospital insurance. Once your deductible is met here, it covers 100% of things like hospital stays, hospice, skilled nursing facilities and hoe health care. In most cases, there is no monthly premium for Medicare Part A.

Medicare Part B is medical insurance that comes with a monthly premium of $144.60 a month or higher, depending on your income. This is for things like doctor visits, outpatient surgery, lab services and certain types of home medical equipment. Once your deductible is met, Medicare Part B covers 80% of these expenses. You are responsible for the remaining 20%. There is no cap on out-of-pocket costs.

Medicare Part A and B do not cover prescription drugs.

Prescription drug coverage is known as Medicare Part D. There are two ways to obtain it. You can sign up for a standalone plan (one that only provides prescription drug insurance) or a Medicare Part C Advantage Plan.

A Medicare Part C Advantage plan combines all coverage (hospital, doctor and drug coverage) into one plan. Some also cover dental, vision and/or hearing, which are not included in Medicare Part A or B.

With a Medicare Part C Advantage plan, you will usually pay a co-pay for services. However, there is a limit on your out-of-pocket expenses.

VIVA Health is a health maintenance organization (HMO) that is part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Health System and provided information for this article.

Officials with VIVA Health recommend asking the following questions when choosing a Medicare Advantage plan:

-Are my doctors in the plan’s provider network?
-Are my prescription drugs covered by the plan?
-Is there a monthly premium?
-Is a referral required to see a specialist?
-Is emergency coverage offered outside the United States?
-How is this plan rated with Medicare?

You can learn more at or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

To contact VIVA Health, visit or call toll-free at 1-888-830-VIVA (8432).

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