It is nearly time for the start of the Medicare Open Enrollment or Annual Election period which runs from October 15 until December 7 each fall. As a result, we have invited our Medicare expert, Danielle Roberts, to explain what you may wish to do during this Medicare Annual Election period. This is your opportunity to make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan and Medicare Part D plan.
Danielle Roberts explains what you can and cannot do during this period of time. It is important information for all Medicare beneficiaries. The more you know about how Medicare works and when you can make changes to your plan, the more you will benefit from the program. If you have more questions after reading this article, you can contact Danielle Roberts or her staff directly at Boomer Benefits. You can also find additional contact information for Boomer Benefits in the sidebar of this blog, under the information about our Medicare Expert.
What to do During Medicare Open Enrollment
by: Danielle Roberts
Like other insurance programs, Medicare has designated enrollment periods. In fact, there are different enrollment periods for each part of Medicare. Some occur only once in a beneficiary’s lifetime, while others happen annually.
The Medicare Open Enrollment period in the fall is a very important enrollment period that affects nearly every beneficiary every year. It is also one of the most misunderstood enrollment periods.
What is the Open Enrollment period?
The main reason beneficiaries misunderstand this period is because of its name. There are multiple enrollment periods with the words “Open Enrollment” in the title. Theperiod is often mistaken to be a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Open Enrollment window. However, that is not the case and these two periods are very different.
The Medicare Open Enrollment period in the autumn of each year is also known as the Annual Election Period. Calling it the Annual Election Period is a good way to differentiate it from other Medicare enrollment periods.
This period occurs every year in the fall between October 15th and December 7th. During this period, Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in, change, or dis-enroll from Medicare Advantage plans and Part D drug plans.
They cannot, however, use this time to apply for a Medigap plan without going through medical underwriting. This is the part most people get wrong.
Medicare beneficiaries can apply to change Medigap plans at any time throughout the year. However, if they are outside of their one-time 6-month Medigap open enrollment window, they will have to answer health questions. So, it’s important for them to realize that they cannot use the period in the fall to enroll in a Medigap plan without underwriting.
How should beneficiaries prepare for the Open Enrollment period?
Medicare beneficiaries who have enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D drug plan should look out for their Annual Notice of Change during September. This letter explains the changes the carrier plans to make to that specific plan for the next year. Every beneficiary needs to review this notice and decide whether they are okay with the changes or if they’d like a new plan.
Although Medicare beneficiaries are not required to change Medicare Advantage and Part D plans every year, they should review the other plans in their area to see if there is a more cost-effective option.
The next step is to contact a Medicare brokerage that represents several insurance carriers and plans. Beneficiaries should review and compare plans with the broker to learn which plan they should switch to during the Open Enrollment period.
When comparing plans, beneficiaries should be looking for a plan that:
· Includes their doctors in the network
· Covers their important medications
· Is the most cost-effective of the available options
Some Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits, such as free gym memberships. Consider a benefit like this as a cherry on top. Beneficiaries should not base their decision solely on the fact that a plan has a free gym membership and the other more cost-effective plan does not.
When choosing health insurance, you want the plan that will satisfactorily cover any major illnesses or injuries. Extra benefits are nice, but not the most important thing.
What to do During the Fall Open Enrollment Window
Once the period starts on October 15th, beneficiaries can apply to change their Medicare Advantage and Part D plans. It takes a few weeks to be approved after the application is completed since millions of other beneficiaries are also changing plans at this time of year. All changes made during the Open Enrollment period go into effect on January 1st of the next year.
Beneficiaries should not cancel their current coverage until they have been approved for their new plan. If a beneficiary cancels his Medicare Advantage plan to apply for a Medigap plan and then gets denied by the Medigap company, the beneficiary may not have enough time to get re-enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan before December 7th.
So, to review, every beneficiary should review their Annual Notice of Changes in September, research local plans, and apply for the plan within the time frame. Taking these steps ensures a smooth transition into your new coverage.
About Danielle Robert's company, Boomer Benefits:
"Founded in 2005 in Fort Worth, TX, Boomer Benefits is an award-winning insurance agency for national insurance carriers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna, Mutual of Omaha and many other A-rated carriers. We are licensed in 47 states. Over the years, we’ve learned just about everything there is to know about Medicare, and we’ve become known as the baby boomers insurance agency. We pass that knowledge on to you – absolutely free. There is never a charge for our services. Boomer Benefits Consulting is free."
Readers can contact Danielle Roberts and her wonderful staff at Boomer Benefits at:
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