Every year Medicare offers a variety of enrollment periods to help those who are Medicare eligible access and adjust their benefits.
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Each enrollment period serves a different purpose, and it’s important to understand the difference. Medicare’s annual 2020 enrollment period has just begun. It takes place this fall between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7
The Medicare Open Enrollment period allows all Medicare beneficiaries to evaluate their current Medicare coverage – whether Medicare Advantage, Part D and/or Original Medicare –This annual enrollment period is unique because it applies to a broader range of Medicare beneficiaries than other Medicare enrollment periods, allows Medicare beneficiaries to changes that meet their current health and budgetary needs.
What Can You Do During the Annual Enrollment Period?
During the annual enrollment period, Medicare beneficiaries can change their health and prescription plans. A beneficiary with original Medicare Parts A and B can change to a Medicare Advantage plan available in their area. Current Medicare Advantage beneficiaries can also switch to original Medicare or they can choose another Medicare Advantage plan.
Additionally, a Medicare beneficiary who has not enrolled in Medicare’s prescription drug plan, known as Medicare Part D, can enroll in a Part D plan during the annual enrollment period. A beneficiary who has Medicare Part D can also switch to another plan, or drop their plan altogether.
It’s important to note that the annual enrollment period allows changes in Medicare coverage only for those who have already signed up for Medicare Parts A and B. If you have not yet signed up for Medicare Parts A and B, you will be able to enroll during the general enrollment period, which takes place from January 1 to March 31 each year.
Should You Change Plans?
In the month of September, Medicare beneficiaries will receive a letter called the Annual Notice of Change (“ANOC”). This notice will review all of the major aspects of your plan that are changing in the coming year, such as premium cost, doctor and pharmacy networks, copays and more.
It’s important to review this notice and compare any changes in benefits and cost-sharing amounts from your current plan. Otherwise, an unexpected change could catch you by surprise.
Last year, my parents received their annual notice of change and although they are typically very cautious, they failed to read it closely. As a result, they were completely blindsided after being blocked from seeing their usual doctors during a hospital visit.
Looking back, my mother realized that if she’d been more careful with the notice document, she would have caught the changes and that could have saved them a lot of heartache by switching to a plan that offered her preferred providers.
In addition to evaluating your plan itself, it’s important to ask yourself a few key questions:
- Have your health needs changed in the last year?
- Does your current plan meet your needs, or is there a gap that could be filled? For example, if you are diabetic, you may desire a plan that offers specialized devices, such as tablets that record blood sugar levels.
Lastly, remember to consider your total monthly premium, copays, prescription drug prices, and any out of pocket costs you may have. If you’re finding yourself over budget, it may be possible to reduce your annual health care expenses with another plan.
How Do You Evaluate the Options?
If you’re like my parents, you’ll want to research your plan options before making a decision. According to a recent consumer pulse survey, 78% of Medicare eligible respondents research their Medicare options online before making a final decision.
There are several websites that have the most up-to-date information. If you’re working with a licensed health insurance agent, feel free to call them directly to discuss any questions you may have. They’ll be happy to work with you to make sure you enrolled in the right plan for your particular health care needs.
Open enrollment doesn’t have to be complicated. After all, it’s an opportunity for you to take charge of your health care. Just be sure to evaluate your current plan ahead of time and pay close attention to any changes for 2021. That way, you’ll be ready to choose the plan that best fits you.
Jan Dubauskas is a health care expert, enthusiastic insurance pro, attorney and mom serving as Vice President of healthinsurance.com.