Showing posts with label when can I change my Medicare plan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label when can I change my Medicare plan. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Medicare Open Enrollment - Annual Election Period - What Should You Do?

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. The Medicare Fall Open Enrollment period 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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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Medicare Open Enrollment - Expert Answers Your Questions

Are you thinking about changing to a different Medicare plan or making changes to your current one?  There are certain rules regarding when you can make these types of changes. This week we have another special post from our Medicare expert, Danielle Roberts.  She is highly qualified to answer your questions about Medicare, how it works and the timing of changes you may want to make.  If you still have questions after reading this post, her contact information is in the sidebar and there is a link to her site in the "About the Author section."


Getting Ready for Medicare Open Enrollment

Medicare has several periods each year when beneficiaries can make important plan changes and coverage elections. However, we often find that many beneficiaries are not certain what each of these election periods is for and what they should be doing each year to review their coverage.
In this post, we’ll explain the upcoming windows and how you can prepare for them.


Medicare Open Enrollment Period vs Annual Election Period


Medicare uses the term “open enrollment” for multiple different election periods, so it’s easy to get them confused. We find it easiest if beneficiaries refer to the fall enrollment period as the Annual Election Period (AEP). This helps to keep the election periods straight in your mind.

The Annual Election Period begins October 15th and goes until December 7th. There is also a new Medicare Open Enrollment Period for 2019 which will go from January 1st to March 31st.  Let’s go over what changes you can make in each period because they are different.


Medicare’s Annual Election Period: October 15 – December 7


When you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or a Part D drug plan, you are locked in for the rest of the calendar year. You must wait until the Annual Election Period to make changes to your plan(s).
During the AEP you can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another and you can switch from one Part D drug plan to another drug plan. You can also switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare and vice versa. 

When you make any of these changes during the AEP, your new plan goes into effect January 1st of the following year. (If you don’t make any changes to your current plan, your current plan will auto-renew for the next year.)


Medicare’s New Open Enrollment Period: Jan 1 – March 31


Sometimes people who enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the AEP find that they do not like their new plan. It could be that they did not understand their coverage, or it might also be that they learned too late that one of their doctors is not in the network.

In recent years, these beneficiaries would be locked into that plan for the entire year. However, beginning in 2019, Medicare has a new Open Enrollment period from January 1st to March 31st that will allow beneficiaries who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan to make a one-time change.
During this OEP, they can change to a different Medicare Advantage plan or they can disenroll from their Advantage plan to return to Original Medicare and elect a new standalone Part D drug plan to go alongside that coverage.

It’s important to note that if you drop your Advantage plan and decide not to enroll in a Part D plan, you can be penalized for the time you go without creditable drug coverage.

Here’s a recap:

The Medicare Annual Election period in the fall is for all Medicare beneficiaries. It is for enrolling in, disenrolling from or changing either your Medicare Advantage plan or your Part D drug plan. The last plan selection that you make prior to December 7th will become effective January 1st

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period which begins in January only applies to beneficiaries who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. These beneficiaries can either switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another or they can switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare.

You cannot switch from one Part D drug plan to another during the OEP. That’s the main difference between the AEP and the OEP.


Your Annual Notice of Change Letter


The first step to getting ready for the AEP is to review your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC). Your ANOC is a letter sent to you by your current Medicare Advantage plan or Part D drug plan.

This letter states all changes that your current insurance carrier is making for the following year. It lists changes in monthly premiums, copays, coverage, deductibles, and drug formularies. You will want to review this thoroughly to ensure you make the right decision during the AEP.


Medigap Open Enrollment


To add to the confusion around the term “open enrollment,” there is also a one-time Open Enrollment period for Medigap plans.

The Medigap Open Enrollment is a one-time window that begins with your Part B effective date. During the six months directly after your Part B effective date, all Medicare beneficiaries have a one-time chance to enroll in a Medigap plan without having to answer health questions. This is a “use it or lose it” enrollment period. Once it has passed, it does not recur again.

This does not mean that later you cannot attempt to change your Medigap plan. In fact, Medicare beneficiaries can apply for new Medigap plans anytime throughout the year. However, unless you live in a specific state with different rules or have a guaranteed issue window because you are leaving employer group health coverage, you will have to answer health questions whenever you apply for a Medigap plan outside of your one-time Medigap open enrollment period. Depending on your answers and your medical record, you could be denied coverage for a new Medigap plan.


Get Ready with A Medicare Broker


Working with a Medicare broker can take the stress out of the decision making. A broker can evaluate each of your plan options in your area and explain any applicable rules. This will help you have more confidence in your choice.

About Guest Post Author, Danielle Roberts:  This guest post was written by our Medicare expert, Danielle Roberts, one of the co-founders of Boomer Benefits and a frequent contributor to this blog.  As always, we greatly appreciate her willingness to share her expertise and her ability to calmly explain these difficult-to-understand issues in clear terms.

If you want to learn more about Medicare, Social Security, where to retire, financial planning, and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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