For the millions of Americans aged 65 and older, Medicare is a critical source of healthcare. During the Medicare Annual Election Period between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7, those eligible can select or make changes to their plans for 2019. Experts say that this selection is vitally important and should be done with care.

“It’s a good idea to go shopping for potential plans and consider each element of them,” says Brian Evanko, who leads Cigna’s government programs, including Cigna-HealthSpring, which is a supplier of Medicare Advantage products. “Your goal should be to choose a plan that strikes the right balance between the benefits you’ll need and what you can afford.”

To help you choose a plan and get the most from it, consider these tips from the experts at Cigna-HealthSpring:

  • Determine your priorities. Plans can vary widely, and certain plans go beyond the basics to include such benefits as transportation assistance to doctor appointments, fitness classes, discounts on home delivery of covered prescription medications and even nutritious meals after a hospital discharge. Special needs plans are available to those with qualifying conditions, such as having certain chronic illnesses or being eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. Taking the time to identify your priorities and healthcare needs will help you evaluate your plan options from an informed standpoint.


  • Know your network. The right plan will offer you support in navigating a complex healthcare system, saving you time and money. Seek out a plan that offers you a team of providers that will commit to getting to know your needs and delivering coordinated care. If you have favorite doctors or pharmacies, make sure they are within your network.


  • Leverage preventive care opportunities. Preventive care saves lives and helps you delay or avoid the onset of disease. So, schedule your annual check-up and keep your appointment. Get to know your doctor and ask about any screenings you need for your age and background.


  • Get active. Incorporate exercise into your routine; it’s essential to healthy aging. While original Medicare doesn’t cover gym memberships or fitness programs, a number of Medicare Advantage plans offer such benefits as part of their coverage at no extra cost.


  • Use free resources. To compare plans, use free resources like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Plan Finder where plans are rated from one to five stars. Many insurance plans offer no-cost, no-obligation seminars explaining plan details. You can also check health plans’ websites or call their customer service team for more information.

This Annual Election Period, consider your personal health circumstances and budget needs carefully. The right plan will help you maximize your physical and financial wellbeing, ensuring you have affordable access to the benefits you need all year long.