Saturday, October 31, 2020

Medicare Annual Election Period - Avoid Making Mistakes!

For the past few years, this blog has benefited from the wisdom of our Medicare expert, Danielle Kunkle Roberts.  She is the founder of Boomer Benefits and her company provides Medicare assistance to senior citizens in nearly every state.  Her contact information is always available in the side bar of this blog.  This month, she has written a helpful post which explains the most common mistakes people make during the Medicare Annual Election Period.

 If you are concerned about avoiding other potential Medicare mistakes, you will also want to read her new book "10 Costly Medicare Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make." (Ad)  It is full of excellent tips which everyone should know about before applying for Medicare.

Mistakes to Avoid During the AEP

by Danielle Kunkle Roberts

Medicare has several different enrollment periods. Some happen only once in your life, while others happen annually. The Annual Election Period (AEP), also called the Fall Open Enrollment Period, occurs every year from October 15th until December 7th.

The Annual Election Period (AEP) is for people who are already enrolled in Medicare, so if you are new to Medicare, the AEP will not pertain to you. During the AEP, you can enroll in, change, or drop a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan. The AEP does not apply to Medigap (Medicare Supplement) plans, however. You can apply for Medigap at any time, but if you are outside your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you might have to pass a medical underwriting before a new company will accept you. 

Knowing exactly what the AEP is designed for and how to prepare for it will help you avoid these mistakes.

Mistake:  Missing your Annual Notice of Change

Every year, Part D and Medicare Advantage plans must send out an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) letter to their beneficiaries. If you have a Medicare Part D plan or Medicare Advantage plan, you should receive your ANOC by September 30th.

Your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) will either be mailed or emailed to you, depending on your preference. This notice will explain all the changes made to the plan for the following year, such as premium and formulary changes. Some insurers send letters with instructions for viewing your plan changes online. If your insurer is one of those, the notice you receive may not actually contain changes to your plan.

It’s important to review your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) every year before the Annual Election Period (AEP) is over. If you ignore your ANOC and stick with your current plan, you may be surprised to discover on January 1st that your plan dropped one of your daily medications from the formulary or canceled a benefit you relied on.

The Annual Election Period is generally the only time you can change Part D plans each year, so if you’re unhappy with your current plan, make sure you explore your options and make the switch during the AEP.

On the other hand, if you are enrolled in Medicare Advantage, you have a second chance to change your coverage during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (January 1st – March 31st).

Mistake:  Dropping your Medicare Advantage plan before getting approved for your Medigap plan

If you decide to switch to Original Medicare and Medigap during the Annual Election Period, make sure you are approved for a Medigap plan before you drop your Medicare Advantage plan. Unless you have Medigap guaranteed issue rights, you may be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition.

Outside your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, it may take a few weeks for the insurer to approve your application. This is especially true if the company wants to review your medical records.

Wait until you get your approval letter and effective date to drop your other coverage. Otherwise, you could find yourself past the Annual Election Period with no opportunity to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan until the following year.

Mistake:  Not using the Medicare Plan Finder Tool to shop Part D plans

Medicare created an online Plan Finder Tool several years ago that has become a one-stop-shop for Part D plans. It is the go-to place to compare all Part D plans offered in your ZIP code. The Plan Finder makes it easy to compare multiple Part D plans at one time.

At Boomer Benefits, we recommend that our Medigap clients use this tool during the AEP to shop for Part D plans. Since most Medicare enrollees have access to dozens of different Part D plans, the Plan Finder is really the easiest way to compare premiums and formularies. 

Remember, all of our Medigap clients have access to our client service team for help with issues related to Part D, even if your plan is with a company we do not represent. This is a completely free service for our Medigap clients. 

You will also have access to an annual Part D video which explains how to use the Medicare Plan Finder Tool to make sure you find the most cost-effective plans in your area every year.

Mistake:  Not enrolling in a new Model Part D plan as an insulin-dependent beneficiary

Starting January 1, 2021, there is a new program called the Part D Senior Savings Model. The 2020 AEP is the first time you can enroll in one of the new Model Part D plans. Enrolling in a Senior Savings Model Part D plan will cap your insulin copayments at $35 or lower.

If you take insulin and it’s covered by Part D, not Part B, be sure to enroll in a new Senior Savings Model Part D plan during this year’s AEP. Doing so will cap your insulin spending at no more than $420 for 2021.


For many Medicare beneficiaries, the Annual Election Period (AEP) is a stressful time of year. But if you know the purpose of the AEP and how to prepare for it, you’ll glide right through and get the coverage you need.

If you are shopping for Medicare Advantage plans, Boomer Benefits can help you find the most cost-effective plan in your area. You can also give us a call at (855) 732-9055 if you have a Medicare Advantage plan, but would like to switch to a Medigap plan. You can learn more at

Be sure to check out Boomer Benefits co-founder Danielle Kunkle Roberts’ new book, "10 Costly Medicare Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make." (Ad) This best-selling book discusses ten other mistakes it is all too easy to make throughout your Medicare journey.

Are you interested in learning more about Medicare, Social Security, common medical problems, financial planning, where to live in retirement and more?  Use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this important information with us. I will pass it on.

    1. Thanks! Medicare mistakes can cost a lot of money and cause problems, so each person needs to make sure they are doing the right thing for themselves.


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