October 15 marks the start of open enrollment for anyone who wants to switch Medicare Advantage plans or join Medicare Part D, the prescription drug plan.
November 15 is when open enrollment begins for HealthSource RI, the second time around for Rhode Island's online health insurance marketplace for individuals, families, and small businesses.
Here's what we know so far about the options.
Medicare Advantage plans are private, managed care plans - plans with a specific network of doctors, for example, or plans that include vision and dental coverage, like an HMO - for people 65 and older or the disabled. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid estimates that the average Medicare Advantage premium will go up for 2015 by about $1.30. But CMS says most plan members will not see any increases. The average monthly premium for Medicare Part D, the prescription drug plan, is expected to go up by about $1, to $32 a month.
CMS also says the quality of those Medicare Advantage plans has improved. And that there are plenty of options. As for access to the doctors a member prefers to visit, we've seen some plans shrink their networks, dropping doctors from a variety of hospitals and specialties, for example, in Rhode Island. That's a trend that could continue, although we're seeing some legal challenges to so-called "narrow networks" in other states.
For HealthSource RI, here's an update on the insurance carriers who will be offering plans, from spokeswoman Dara Chadwick (via email):
"We’re still finalizing which plans will be offered on the Exchange for 2015. Carriers in the individual market will include Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, and United Healthcare. United is new to the individual market for 2015. All three carriers will also be offering plans for small employers ..."
We don't know how rates compare to last year, but should know that soon.