Money Fix: Open enrollment decisions

Through Dec. 7, 2012, millions of seniors on

Through Dec. 7, 2012, millions of seniors on Medicare must choose the right plan for their needs to get the most for their health care dollars during the annual open enrollment period. (Credit: iStock)

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This fall, there's more than just the presidential election that will impact your future. Through Dec. 7, millions of seniors on Medicare must choose the right plan for their needs to get the most for their health care dollars during the annual open enrollment period.

Ask questions. Is your current coverage still meeting your needs? How will your benefits change next year? If you're enrolled in a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, review your annual notice of changes. "Don't be caught off guard," said Jennifer Cohen Smith, regional vice president for United Healthcare Medicare & Retirement, in New York.

Plan ahead. Think through what preventive care, upcoming tests or surgeries are on the horizon. "Zero in on a Medicare Advantage program that might save real money," said Frank Darras, an Ontario, Calif., attorney specializing in insurance.

Shop around. "Too many seniors are confused, don't want to make a mistake, and just eat the annual increases. Check your current medications and compare costs by evaluating the competition side by side," said Darras. Consider all costs -- not just premiums, but deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance. What fits your budget? The plan with the lowest premium may not be best.

Factor in mail-order benefits. Some plans offer lower co-pays when purchasing drugs through mail-order pharmacies. Read the fine print.

Get help. Turn to your State Health Insurance Assistance Program or Medicare.gov for starters.

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