The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period: How to Make Changes to Your Plans
Now that we are in October, the attention of many seniors has turned to the Medicare annual enrollment period. How could you not be thinking about it, right? The television commercials have begun, and the mailings have started piling up. Making Changes to your Medicare During Open Enrollment
During this time of year, it is important to understand exactly what changes you can make to your Medicare plans and how to go about making those changes.
Medicare Advantage Plan Changes
If you are in a Medicare Advantage plan currently, you should have received a “notice of plan changes” in late September/early October detailing exactly how your Medicare Advantage plan would be changing for 2018. This type of plan changes each year – premiums, deductibles, co-pays, networks, etc.
While it can be tempting to just toss that mail out with the rest of the “junk” you receive this time of year, it is not wise to do so. This document contains vital information about how much your plan will cost and how it will work for the following year.
It is prudent to compare your Medicare Advantage plan against other Medicare plans during the annual election period each year, which runs from October 15 to December 7. Unless you fall into a special circumstance, this is the only time that you can make changes to your existing Medicare Advantage plan. Making Changes to your Medicare During Open Enrollment
There are several ways to go about doing this. One, you can compare the plans yourself on Medicare.gov. Medicare’s website will give you at least some idea of the differences in the plan costs; however, for more detailed information, including exclusions, networks, and more, you would need to acquire plan-specific information.
The other way that you can compare Medicare Advantage plans is by using an independent broker that works for many companies, not just one specific insurance company. They can provide all the details and make recommendations based on your specific situation.
Medicare Part D Changes
The other type of plan that you should compare during the annual election period is Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. If you have traditional Medicare, you probably also have a prescription drug plan through Medicare Part D. Part D plans are sold by private insurance companies, and they can vary tremendously.
Just like with Medicare Advantage, these plans can change each year, in terms of premium, deductible and co-pays. Also, your medications may change over time. The plan that was good for you this year may not work for you as well next year.
It is absolutely critical that you don’t let the annual election period slide by without at least taking a look at your “notice of plan changes” for Part D. And, if you really want to be proactive, which is advisable, you should compare the Part D plan options online.
There is a tool on Medicare’s website (www.medicare.gov), on which you can plug in your zip code, medications and pharmacy. Then, the Medicare Plan Finder will rank all the plans in order of which ones would give you the lowest overall annual cost, based your specific situation and medications. The tool can be a little tricky to use, but here are step-by-step instructions for using it.
A Word about Medigap and the Annual Enrollment Period
Contrary to popular misconception, the annual enrollment period does not affect Medigap plans at all. These plans have an open enrollment that coincides with your 65th birthday or Medicare Part B effective date, but there is not a recurring, annual period for Medigap plans.
That said, the annual period provides a great opportunity to compare your Medigap plan to other plan options and see how your rates stack up against the rest of the marketplace.
Any time you change Medigap plans or companies you do have to answer medical questions and be “approved” medically, unless you are in one of a few states that prohibits medical questions on the application. Making Changes to your Medicare During Open Enrollment
Making Changes to your Medicare During Open Enrollment
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