What is Medicare Annual Enrollment and How to Prepare for It

Open EnrollmentWhile fall marks the beginning of football season and leaves changing, fall also marks an important change to Medicare. If your budget or health has changed, you find yourself paying too much for prescriptions, or your doctor is now out-of-network, it may be time to re-evaluate your current Medicare plan.

Starting October 15, Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (or Open Enrollment) begins. You can evaluate your current Medicare Advantage and/or Part D drug plan and make changes to your coverage without any consequences during this period. Any changes made will be effective on January 1, 2020. It is important to know what changes can be made to your plan, how to prepare and what happens after Open Enrollment.

What Changes Can be Made?

First, you must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and B, the most basic insurance available, to be eligible for Open Enrollment. Then you can then choose to add or drop a Medicare Advantage plan or a Part D prescription drug plan. If you are not satisfied with your Medicare Advantage plan, you can sign up for a different plan or go back to Original Medicare (part A and B). With Original Medicare, you will need to add a prescription drug plan (part D) and can add other supplements. Each addition has different benefits, so it is important to know how each one would suit your lifestyle.

Why Should I Consider Making a Change?

Insurance companies can make changes to Medicare plans each year that affect premiums, deductibles, drug costs, pharmacy networks and provider networks. They can also make modifications to your plan’s formulary which is a list of the drugs covered by the plan. Because of this you may be paying more out-of-pocket from one year to the next. So, it’s a smart idea to check the revisions to your current plan to see if it’s still the best plan for your needs.

How to Prepare

By the end of September, beneficiaries will receive a letter from their insurance company outlining any changes being made to their plan. This is called a Plan Annual Notice of Change or ANOC. This includes any modifications in coverage, service areas or costs that will be effective in January 2020. Additional information about changes to the Medicare program overall can be found on Medicare.gov. To prepare, make a list of changes, questions, your prescriptions and your doctors. With this information, take into consideration any fluctuations in your health, income, or prescription drug prices to decide if your current plan is still the most beneficial for you and your lifestyle. Organizing this information will make your AEP experience easier to manage.

There are two ways you can compare plans and sign up for a new plan. One way is to go to Medicare.gov and use their online tools and do it yourself. The other way is to put the experience of your independent Medicare Insurance Agent to work for you. They can run comparisons and present you with their recommendation based upon your situation and their experience with the plans and carriers. They can then sign you up for your new plan(s) which is a good way to protect yourself if there are problems during or after enrollment. At Senior Financial Group, we do not charge for these services.

What Happens After Enrollment?

After AEP there is a three-month grace period from January through March for a one-time change. If you are dissatisfied with a Medicare Advantage Plan you chose during fall AEP, you can change to another during this grace period. If you decide to switch back to Original Medicare, you can sign up for Part D coverage. However, if you already have Original Medicare and Part D as your coverage, you may not change your Medicare Part D plan until the next AEP unless you have a special enrollment period.

Still unsure about Open Enrollment or if your current Medicare plan is the best plan for you? Call an experienced Medicare insurance agent. Our advisors can assist you in making the best decision by comparing costs, explaining recent Medicare changes, and estimating savings.

Contact one of our Medicare advisors here to compare your plan today.

Senior Financial Group does Medicare differently. 


Sources:  Medicare.gov; Kaiser Family Foundation, medicareresources.org

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