Alaska Medicare Advantage plans are arriving soon, and there is a lot of excitement. Medicare in Alaska is unique in that, previously, Medicare Advantage plans were not offered in the state. However, you will soon have the option to enroll in a Medicare Advantage MSA plan in Alaska.
Starting October 1, 2021, Alaska Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (coverage will become effective January 1, 2022). Previously, there were no Medicare Advantage plans available to Alaska residents.
So, in the past, if you wanted private Medicare coverage in Alaska, your only option was to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan. However, 2022 brings a new opportunity to get your Medicare coverage through a Medicare Advantage MSA plan. Read on to learn more about plan specifics.
Medicare Advantage MSA Plans in Alaska
So what exactly is a Medicare Advantage MSA plan? MSA plans have two parts: a high deductible health plan and a medical savings account.
MSA High Deductible Health Plan
To begin, the high deductible plan of the MSA account works like many health plans that have deductibles. You are required to cover the full cost of your health care expenses until you reach your plan’s deductible amount. The amount that your deductible is set at depends on the insurance company that you enroll with and the plan that you choose.
MSA Medical Savings Account
The good news with MSA plans is that you won’t typically be responsible for covering your full deductible amount out-of-pocket. That’s these plans come with a medical savings account. Each year, your MSA plan deposits a predetermined amount of money (the amount depends on the plan that you choose) into a bank account. The insurance company that you enroll with selects the bank.
These funds can be used towards both Medicare-approved services, such as hospital coverage and doctor’s visits, as well as other IRS-qualified medical expenses that are not covered under Medicare Part A or Part B. This can include routine vision, hearing, and dental care. You can even use this money to help pay for your prescription drugs.
The annual deposits that you receive in your MSA medical savings account can cover up to 40% of the plan’s deductible amount. But you should know that how quickly you reach your deductible depends on what you are using those medical savings account funds towards.
While you are permitted to use this money for things that are not covered under Medicare Part A or Part B, paying for services that are not covered under Original Medicare with your medical savings account funds will not count towards your deductible amount. For example, you can use the money that you received from your MSA to pay for a routine dental visit, but what you pay for your visit will not count towards your deductible. Only health expenses that fall under the Medicare benefits covered by Original Medicare will count towards your MSA deductible amount.
The good news is that any funds that you don’t use one year remain in your account when the next year begins, meaning that you can use them to help pay for health-related costs down the line.
Other MSA Plan Details
While MSA plans don’t have a network of physicians that limits where you can get coverage, no physician, even one that accepts Medicare, is obligated to treat you if you have an MSA. However, physicians receive the same compensation when treating someone who has an MSA as they would from someone who is enrolled in Original Medicare, so it could be helpful for your provider to understand that.
Finally, you should be aware that even though MSA plans do not have monthly premiums, you will still be responsible for covering your other Medicare premiums. This can include Part B and Part D premiums, and/or your Medicare Supplement premium (if you are already enrolled in one and don’t want to drop your coverage). You cannot use your MSA deposit to pay for your monthly premiums, though it can be used towards your Part A, Part B, and Part D deductibles.
Benefits Offered by MSA Plans in Alaska
As you can see, an MSA plan can be a great way for Alaska Medicare beneficiaries to get their health coverage. But you should have a good understanding of the way that MSA plans work, as they are structured differently than other Medicare Advantage plans.
Remember, MSA plans don’t pay for your medical expenses until you reach your plan’s deductible. Once you have reached your plan’s deductible, your plan will pay for the basic coverage that Original Medicare provides, which encompasses all of your Part A and Part B expenses. This includes hospital insurance and medical coverage (doctor’s visits, preventative care, etc.)
However, you can use the money that your plan deposits in your medical savings account annually to pay for any health-related costs before you reach your deductible. You can use this money for expenses covered under traditional Medicare as well as those deemed by the federal government as IRS-qualified medical expenses. This can help to keep your out-of-pocket costs out of control.
It is important to be aware that MSA plans don’t offer any prescription drug coverage, so you will have to enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan if you want help paying for your medications. Prescription drug plans, also referred to as Medicare Part D plans, help cover the costs of your prescription medications. Although Medicare Part D plans are voluntary, be aware that if you don’t sign up for Part D coverage when you are first eligible, you could face late enrollment penalty fees down the line.
Medicare Advantage Enrollment in Alaska
If you are newly eligible for Medicare and want to enroll in Medicare Advantage in Alaska, you can do so during your Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP). This enrollment period begins when you become eligible for Original Medicare. But if you are already enrolled in Medicare, you can sign up for Medicare Advantage in Alaska during the Annual Election Period (AEP), which lasts from October 15 to December 7 each year.
The AEP is a good time for people in Alaska who are already enrolled in Original Medicare to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan. Any beneficiaries who are currently enrolled in Medicare Supplement Insurance can keep their Medigap plan and enroll in an MSA, though you may get little to no benefit from staying enrolled in your Medicare Supplement plan, and you will still have to pay the monthly premium.
As you can see, understanding your Medicare coverage options can be tricky, as Medicare plans (Medicare Advantage plans in particular) can be quite complex. Thankfully, you don’t have to figure it out on your own.
The Medicare Plans Direct team is here to offer you the Medicare resources you need to make the right Medicare decisions. A licensed insurance agent can help you to find affordable Medicare plans that give you just the right coverage for your individual situation.
Reach out today to speak with one of our experienced insurance agents for free. We can help you to compare plans and find just the right Medicare policy for you.