It’s that Time, Again – Medicare Open Enrollment: Make the Most of It

It’s that Time, Again – Medicare Open Enrollment: Make the Most of It

- in Insurance, September/October 2016
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You signed up for Medicare when you turned 65. Like most people, you probably breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that your health insurance decisions were settled.

But wait — not so fast. Didn’t any- one tell you about Medicare Open Enrollment?

Confused? So is everyone else.

Never heard about Medicare’s Open Enrollment period? If you are over age 65, you’ll soon find your mailbox jammed with official-looking envelopes from insurance companies competing for your attention. While it might be bewildering, it can also mean good news for you.

Many people find their initial enrollment in Medicare to be overwhelming. They often make mistakes. They may pick a plan that doesn’t cover the doctors or hospitals they prefer. Maybe there is a change in health or they chose a prescription drug plan that doesn’t cover their prescriptions. For whatever reason, they find they are locked into insurance coverage that simply does not fit their needs.

Medicare’s open enrollment is a chance for a do-over. It is an annual opportunity to take a close look at all the other Medicare health insurance options. It’s your chance to make changes that benefit you. Medicare’s open enrollment period begins every year on Oct. 15 and closes Dec. 7. During this period, people who have previously signed up for Medicare can:

• change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan

• change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare

• switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan

• join a Medicare prescription drug plan

• switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to a different Medicare prescription drug plan

• drop Medicare prescription drug coverage completely

Any changes made during this open enrollment take effect Jan. 1 of the following year.

WHERE TO BEGIN

Those covered by a Medicare Advantage plan or Prescription Drug plan will receive an Annual Notice of Change from their insurer outlining changes to their plan for the following year.

Insurance companies are permitted to make changes each year in their Medicare Advantage plans and Prescription Drug plans. These may include the cost, coverage, and which providers and pharmacies are included in their networks.

Some plans may also be discontinued; it will be up to you to find a different plan or to go back to Original Medicare. All this information will be contained in the Annual Notice of Change, or ANOC, which will arrive before Oct. 1.

Focus on are the following:

• Changes in benefits and cost: Do the changes affect the services you use? Has the amount of your co-pay changed? Have the premiums or out-of-pocket costs changed?

• Part D Prescription Drug Plan: Are your prescription medications covered? Are they in a different tier? Can you continue to use the same pharmacies? Have the premium, deductible or tier costs changed?

• Providers Network: Are your doctors, hospitals and other health care providers still in the network?

If you are satisfied that your current plan will meet your needs for next year, you can relax. You don’t need to do anything. Your coverage will automatically renew.

If you find significant changes or would like to see how other plans measure up, begin looking into other options as soon as possible. It takes time to shop for a new plan. Contact a trusted insurance broker to help with your research.

THE BROKER OPTION

While you can purchase insurance online or through a company’s 800-number, an independent broker provides a level of personalized service you won’t get when you do all the legwork yourself. They will take into account your budget, your overall health care needs, the doctors you prefer and the prescriptions you’re taking in order to find the plan that’s best for you.

They’ll consider whether you need coverage when you travel, whether you are interested in a fitness club membership and whether you want vision and dental coverage.

You will not pay any more for your insurance if you purchase the same plan through an independent insurance broker rather than going through an 800-number or ordering online. Your premiums will be the same, no matter what.

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