If you are 65 and older, December 7th is an important deadline for Medicare Enrollment. Between October 15th and December 7th each year Medicare eligible enrollees have the option to review their coverage options and change plans. Changes made before the deadline of December 7th take effect on January 1st of the following year.
Selecting and enrolling in a Medicare plan usually isn't a one-time decision, and it may be a good idea to annually re-evaluate whether you have the right mix of coverage and cost. Insurance plans — and personal needs — can change each year. Medicare has an Open Enrollment Period annually for Medicare drug, Medicare Supplements (Medigap policies) and Medicare Advantage plans. Taking the time to evaluate changing needs and coverage options can help to ensure the best coverage at the best rates.
Selecting a Medicare plan doesn’t have to be stressful. Here are five tips to help you review your options and ensure you are choosing the right option.
- Look Out for Your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)
Every year, insurance companies send their members a Plan Annual Notice of Change, or ANOC, which outlines plan changes for the upcoming year. This notice comes by mail or e-mail, and it can easily find its way into junk or spam folders. We recommend keeping an eye out for it, and when you get it, reading it thoroughly. Possible changes could include your insurance company raising your co-pay, changing your premium, no longer covering your doctor, and including or excluding extras like dental, vision and hearing coverage. Your plan might also be terminated entirely—it’s rare, but it can happen.
- Review the Options
It can be worth your time to explore the options and understand the benefits and costs of your current plan and other comparable plans. Before selecting a plan, it's good to know the difference between the original Medicare plans (parts A and B), as well as identifying the most ideal Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plan (Medigap policy). While these have hundreds of options to consider, typically a few make sense. If you need help finding a plan that fits your needs and budget, you might want to consider the help of a licensed professional.
Also, you should consider any changes to your health over the past year or whether you anticipate major health needs, such as surgery, in the coming year. This will help determine if your current coverage still fits your needs.
- Prevent Financial Surprises by Comparing Limits and Prices
It's good to pay attention to your monthly premiums, co-pays and services available. You should understand the out-of-pocket costs you may be responsible for such as deductibles, copays, and coinsurance, as well as additional benefits these options provide.
Check to see if your doctors are in your Medicare plan’s network. Seeking care from in-network doctors is a major factor in keeping costs low (relatively speaking). Some plans allow doctor visits out-of-network for a higher copay or coinsurance amount, while other plans don’t cover any of the cost for out-of-network visits. Very few plans allow you to see any doctor or health care provider who contracts with Medicare.
- Check for Additional Benefits
Annual enrollment is the ideal time to select plans with benefits that can help protect one’s health from head to toe. Remember to ask about programs that reward you for keeping a healthier lifestyle. Some plans offer incentives for completing certain health-related activities, and many Medicare Advantage plans also offer gym memberships and other wellness benefits at no additional cost.
Switching plans may be a way to keep up with one's changing medical needs. You may wish to consider finding plans with routine vision, dental, and hearing services, which Original Medicare doesn’t offer. Many Medicare Advantage plans offer these and additional perks like discounts on hearing aids and other devices.
- Understand The Logistics of Enrolling
If you decide it’s in your best interest to change your plan, enrolling in a new Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plan will officially cancel your current plan. There is no need to cancel your current plan first. When you make a new plan selection, it automatically overwrites your old plan. You also have several options when it comes to how to enroll in Medicare plans. You can meet face to face with an insurance representative who will help you with the paperwork, mail back the paperwork yourself, electronically complete the paperwork online or you can enroll directly with a broker who will walk you through the process over the phone.
It’s normal to feel a little apprehensive about choosing your Medicare plan or changing your old plan for a new one. Any decision that involves one's health is a big decision. Remember, though that you’re choosing a plan for the next 12 months. If you don’t like the service you’re getting or you find another plan with better savings and wider coverage, you can switch during the next Medicare annual enrollment period, which runs from October 15th - December 7th each year. It's good to be thorough and ask the right questions to make an informed choice.
For personal assistance in selecting a plan, consider contacting a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for guidance, or contact your Telos advisor to help guide you to a licensed benefits advisor.