Seniors depend on Medicare to get the health coverage they need. Whether it be hospital care, prescription drugs, durable medical equipment, or other medical necessities, these plans can help make things more affordable. Medicare has an open enrollment period each year that’s crucial for subscribers to know about. It gives you an opportunity to make changes to your current plan, which cannot be done other times during the year. Find out when open enrollment takes place with a search online.

In addition to open enrollment, there are some additional changes Medicare is implementing to its coverage this year. See how these changes can impact your health plan with an online search.

Here’s a rundown that covers the changes and open enrollment period for 2022.

Coverage of COVID-19 Items and Services

While COVID-19 affected the entire U.S., it had the most severe impact on seniors. For that reason, Medicare has adapted to meet the needs of its enrollees by supplying various COVID-19 related medical services and supplies.

One way to track and contain the spread of COVID-19 has been to offer free diagnostic tests. If you are traveling or worried you may have COVID-19, you can go to a laboratory, pharmacy, doctor, or hospital for free testing.

For those who still have not been vaccinated, you will face no charges for receiving one. Vaccines are one of the best ways to ensure your safety and health against the coronavirus as it will bolster your body’s immunity to the virus. Just bring your Medicare card for your appointment, and the pharmacy or your health care provider will bill it to Medicare.

If you already had COVID-19 or have taken the vaccine, you can ensure you possess an immunity to the virus through an antibody test. An antibody test will show whether your body has developed sufficient antibodies against COVID-19. During this public health emergency, you will pay nothing for these tests.

If you do unfortunately get COVID-19, do not panic as there are new treatments that work extremely well to combat the virus. Most Medicare recipients qualify for monoclonal antibody treatments and will pay nothing for them if they are administered by a Medicare provider. The FDA describes monoclonal antibody treatments as laboratory made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful viruses like COVID-19. Such treatments are extremely beneficial to seniors as they made specifically for individuals with weakened immune systems.

Coverage of Cognitive Assessment and Care Plan Services

If you have been enrolled in Medicare Part B for longer than 12 months, you will receive yearly wellness visits. These visits are designed to develop and modify your personalized healthcare plan. For seniors, these plans are specified to prevent disease and disability by evaluating your current health and risk factors. One of the most important components to these visits is the included cognitive assessment.

Cognitive assessments detect early signs of cognitive impairments for diseases like Alzheimer’s. During these assessments, the doctor will evaluate whether you struggle remembering new things, concentrating, managing finances, or making everyday decisions. Such examinations are crucial as cognitive impairment can be caused by a variety of diseases and disorders such as depression, anxiety, delirium, or dementia.

Medicare will cover an additional visit with your doctor or specialist to perform a complete review of your cognitive function and establish a diagnosis. If a diagnosis like Alzheimer’s is delivered, your doctor or specialist can also help you through the process of advance care planning.

Advanced care plans are developed before cognitive functions worsen to the point at which you cannot speak or act for yourself. A care plan describes the type of care you wish to receive when you are no longer able to communicate it.

Medicare covers voluntary advance care planning as a part of your yearly wellness visit. However, if this planning is conducted outside of your yearly visit, a Medicare Part B deductible and coinsurance will apply.

Coverage of New Screening Tests for Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is also known as colon cancer, bowel cancer, or rectal cancer. While there are certain restrictions for Medicare coverage on these tests, they will be covered for the most part. Medicare covers a variety of different tests to detect colorectal cancer early, such as barium enemas, colonoscopies, fecal occult blood tests, flexible sigmoidoscopies, and multi-target stool DNA tests. Additionally, blood-based biomarker tests are now covered as well.

Blood-based biomarker tests are covered only once every three years. To be eligible for coverage you must be:

  • Between the ages of 50 to 85;
  • Show no symptoms of colorectal disease, and;
  • Be at average risk for developing colorectal cancer.

While there are stringent rules around this lab test, you will pay nothing if you qualify.

Blood-based biomarker tests are an amazing innovation that have helped many detect cancer early on. Studies have shown that the specificity in detection of colorectal cancer is greater than or equal to 90 percent when compared to colonoscopies

Possible Price Increases

With open enrollment beginning soon, Medicare users should be aware of possible price increases. These increases are not much of a surprise as there is an increased number of individuals signing up for Medicare and some economic turbulence. For instance, enrollment in Medicare Advantage in 2022 is projected to reach 29.5 million people, which is a decent increase over the 26.9 million that enrolled the previous year.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released some information around 2022 premiums, deductibles, and other key information. While there are price increases expected, some areas will see a reduction in price. For instance, the average premium for Medicare Advantage in 2022 will be $19 per month, which is lower than the $21.22 in 2021.

While lower premiums for Medicare Advantage is nice, there are many facets of Medicare which will increase in cost. Medicare Part A deductibles are expected to increase in price by 3.2 percent. Medicare Part B deductibles are set to increase by seven percent and the premium is also expected to increase by 6.7 percent. Lastly, the average monthly premium for Medicare Part D is expected to increase from $31.47 to $33, a 4.9 percent difference.

None of these increases are drastic, but they can make a world of difference for seniors living on a budget. Hopefully this information will help Medicare users navigate through the 2022 enrollment period.

Learn More Open Medicare Changes Online

If you want to enroll in Medicare for the first time or make adjustments to your current health plan, open enrollment is the time to do just that. You can update your coverage to meet your current needs as a senior and ensure you’re getting affordable healthcare for the upcoming year.

Open enrollment takes place from October 15 to December 7. When reviewing your plan, make sure the changes to Medicare align with what you need as a customer. Talk to a Medicare representative if you need additional help with configuring your health plan that’s best for you.