Table of Contents:
Medicare.gov has officially published the Medicare and You Handbook for 2021. This annual guide explains all things Medicare in great detail, from the coverage beneficiaries can receive to the costs they can expect to incur. Each guide outlines all changes being made to Medicare for the upcoming year and how these changes might affect beneficiaries. The guide itself is 124 pages in length, though the table of contents and overall layout make it relatively easy to find answers to specific questions.
The Medicare and You Handbook
Here’s a breakdown of the layout of the 2021 Handbook:
The first ten pages define the parts of Medicare (these are the various forms of coverage) and outline a few key differentiating factors between plans, such as the general differences between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage.
Section 1 includes detailed instructions on how to sign up for Medicare. This section is geared toward newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries and explains some of the penalties that will be applied if an individual does not sign up when first eligible.
Section 2 outlines the health-related products and services that are covered (and not covered) by Medicare. This section is comprehensive – at 28 pages it is by far the lengthiest section of the Handbook – and covers everything from travel health insurance to hospice care.
Section 3 explains what Original Medicare is and what is covered in 2021. It describes both aspects of Original Medicare (Parts A and B, respectively) and goes into detail about the payment structures associated with each.
Section 4 defines Medicare Advantage (also known as Part C) and outlines the various types of associated plans. This section explains how to shop and sign up for Medicare Advantage plans, what to look for in plan descriptions to project out-of-pocket costs, and how to switch or drop Medicare Advantage coverage if necessary.
Section 5 is dedicated to Medigap. This section explains how to shop for these privately-offered plans, what they generally cover, and how they work in conjunction with other forms of Medicare coverage.
Section 6 focuses on Medicare Part D. Part D exists specifically to help beneficiaries with their prescription drug costs. This section outlines the changes being made to Part D, how to shop and sign up for plans, costs associated, how Part D works with other forms of Medicare coverage, and how to switch or drop a Part D plan.
Section 7 provides information and resources regarding financial aid options available to some Medicare beneficiaries. It outlines what the Extra Help income thresholds are for 2021, and details the four Medicare Savings Programs that exist to aid beneficiaries with lower yearly incomes.
Navigating the Medicare and You Handbook
Being that the Handbook is 124 pages in length, it is important to know how to navigate the document to locate specific information. Having a guide handy that offers definitions for some of the confusing medical and Medicare-specific jargon will be helpful. Use our glossary of terms to help decode the language.
In addition, if you are looking at the online brochure, there are some simple computer commands that will allow you to find terms of interest. One useful trick is the “find a word” function. If you use a PC, this will be the “ctrl” key plus the “f” key. Simply hold down “ctrl” and press “f” (while still holding control). A text box will appear in the top-right corner of your screen. If you type any word or phrase you would like to identify into this text box, you can find each instance that this word or phrase appears in the text. So, if you are curious about dialysis-related services and procedures, you can press “ctrl” plus ”f,” type “dialysis” into the text box, and then scan through each instance where the word “dialysis” appears in the handbook. If you use a Mac, the same strategy applies, except you would use the “command” button rather than the “ctrl” button.
Information adapted from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Additional data and cost information adapted from the Social Security Administration