For the hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans eligible for Medicare, lower premiums and more plans in 2023 is good news.
Open registration for next year’s coverage began October 15 and will run through December 7. People who want to keep their current Medicare coverage do not need to re-enroll. First-time qualifiers can enroll at any time, starting three months before their 65th birthday and up to three months after their birthday month. But for everyone else – those who want to revamp their coverage or make changes, now is the time.
“It’s just important that Medicare beneficiaries really take the time to consider their various options and make sure the plan they choose is one that will meet their specific health care needs,” said said Janice Torrez, president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico.
Medicare-eligible people — typically people age 65 or older or people with disabilities that make them eligible — can choose to use traditional Medicare, find a prescription drug plan, get a Medicare supplemental insurance policy, or s enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan at this time.
Nationally, average premiums for Medicare Advantage plans are expected to decline nearly 8% in 2023, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. But in New Mexico, that number is 18% — from an average of $14.62 in 2022 to $11.98 for 2023. Additionally, the number of plans available in the state has increased from 69 this year. to 72 for next year, giving older people more choices.
Evolution of local offers
The BCBSNM, which offered its Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans in 12 counties last year, is expanding to 29 counties this year.
Presbyterian Health Plan has launched a new Medicare Advantage plan for people who want predictability in their health care costs, but also flexibility. The Ultra Flex plan, as it’s called, provides off-grid service to those who travel, said Brandon Fryar, president of Presbyterian Health Plan. It also comes with $860 linked to a debit card that can be used for benefits such as eyeglasses, acupuncture, dental or chiropractic services.
When it comes to choosing a plan, Fryar recommends getting information not from targeted advertising or call centers, but from someone who really knows Medicare.
“A lot of times it’s a trusted broker in the community that you can visit,” Fryar said.
Presbyterian has licensed health plan consultants available at 800-346-4766 (TTY 711) who can walk people through the process and help them determine their health insurance needs. BCBSNM is offering hours of operation at 5701 Balloon Fiesta Parkway, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Dec. 7 so people can meet with certified brokers for free and get advice.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recommends contacting local state health insurance assistance programs for free personalized health insurance counseling. In that state, it’s the New Mexico Aging & Disability Resource Center at 800-432-2080 or nmaging.state.nm.us.
The center also recommends using Medicare Plan Finder, a tool available at medicare.gov, to perform side-by-side cost and coverage comparisons. The tool was streamlined this fall and updated with the 2023 health and drug plans on October 1. Additionally, 1-800-MEDICARE is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide assistance in English and Spanish as well as more than 200 languages.
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