From now through Dec. 7, Medicare beneficiaries can change plans without penalty. Everyone should review their Medicare Advantage, Part D (drug) and Medigap policies premiums and coverage annually. Insurance companies frequently tweak offerings so you could find more appropriate insurance at a better price. If your health needs have changed, then your current policy may not provide the most cost-effective coverage, either. Consider changing if your current company has less-than-stellar service.

According to Katy Votava, president of Goodcare.com, more than 90 percent of Medicare beneficiaries overspend on Medicare, mainly because they buy Medicare Part C and Part D (drug) plans or Medigap policies that don’t meet their healthcare needs. For instance, married couples often purchase the same plans, regardless of differences in health. From 2007-2014, only 10 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees changed plans each year. As part of his pioneering work in behavioral economics, 2017 Noble Prize in Economics winner Dr. Richard Thaler studied how consumers and investors often made less-than-rational decisions. Jimmy Buffett said it a different way — we are “cavemen in blue jeans” (Don’ Chu Know, Barometer Soup).

Every year insurers send enrollees in Medicare Advantage (Part C), Medicare Part D (drug coverage) or a Medigap policy an “Annual Notice of Changes” and “Evidence of Coverage.” These documents explain any changes and how much insurance will cost the following year. Pay attention to them. Dr. Thaler won a Noble Prize, in part, by demonstrating how inertia affects financial decisions.

A fantastic resource is “Medicare and You 2018” — search for it at medicare.gov. The file is 128 pages long, but it is an easy read. Use it as a reference. Another source is Medicare Plan Finder also at medicare.gov. Enter your Medicare number along with the meds you take and dosage. Not only does this tool provide the cost of healthcare plans available in your area, but also included are drug coverage and patient reviews. For Facebook and Twitter addicts, follow Medicare using those tools, too. Some prefer one on one conversations; for them, the Medicare Rights Center can be reached at 800-333-4114. The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (shiptacenter.org) operates nationwide and counsels Medicare beneficiaries and families at no cost.

For those near Medicare eligibility, don’t forget to enroll in Medicare three months before age 65. Failure to sign up timely means higher Medicare premiums indefinitely. Medicare planning is not easy and can be time-consuming, but make sure your insurance meets your needs and your budget. People with employer-sponsored health insurance during their working career could be intimidated by Medicare. Trust me, today’s Medicare runs circles around the premium support options floating around. Medicare, generally speaking, is guaranteed issue, and as people age, healthcare becomes increasingly complicated. Without Medicare, most Americans won’t have enough resources for retirement.

You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP can help figure out what you need. For specific recommendations, visit livingstonfinancial.net or come by the office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230.