It’s that time of year again, the Annual Election Period (AEP) is upon us. If you’ve been a Medicare recipient prior to this year, then you are all too familiar with the implications of AEP. If this is your first enrollment season, then you’re about to experience what can be a frustrating and stressful time as a Medicare enrollee.
During the Medicare AEP, beneficiaries are able to alter their coverage under specific programs such as Medicare Advantage and Part D Prescription Drug plans. Often times, people make the mistake of thinking this is also the only time to change Medicare supplement plans, however those can be changed anytime throughout the year. The main things to focus on during AEP are switching from or to a Medicare Advantage plan, and entering into or changing your prescription drug plans.
You may be wondering why it is necessary to monitor these plans during the AEP, and the simple answer is that these plans change in coverage and price every year. If you don’t change or do anything to your existing plans, they will likely be much different in price and/or coverage as you enter into the next year. In many cases, the change can be significant. That’s why it’s always worth having your Medicare advisor analyze your existing plans and medications to ensure you’re still in the most cost-effective plan every year during AEP. Don’t wait, you could end up locked into a plan with a much higher premium or with holes in your coverage if you miss the AEP window (October 15th through December 7th).
In an effort to curb the stress and confusion that comes from Medicare AEP season, we’ve developed a list of 6 things that you should do to prepare.
- Confirm your eligibility. This is pretty obvious, but you must be eligible to enroll in Medicare plans. If you’re unsure of your eligibility, consult this article from the US Department of Health & Human Services website: http://www.hhs.gov/answers/medicare-and-medicaid/who-is-elibible-for-medicare/index.html
- Analyze your existing coverage thoroughly. Take some time to consider your past year of coverage. Weigh the pros and cons of the specific plan you’re in, the company/carrier of the plan, the total expenses (including prescription meds) of the year. Consider aspects like how quickly your claims were paid, if your doctor had any trouble with your insurance at any point, and if the out of pocket expenses were worth the healthcare you received.
- Make note of any changes in medication or health that could impact your plans. After you’ve done a thorough self-analysis of your past coverage, make sure to note any looming changes that could be upcoming in your health. For example, if your doctor suggested a new medication or treatment that wasn’t previously needed when you set up your original plan. Write this all out and give your coverage an overall satisfaction rating for the year. This will help determine what the next move for you should be, and will make you aware of what you need most out of your healthcare coverage.
- Compare prices of plan options for the coming year. There are MANY plans, programs, and carriers to choose from. When it comes time to select your coverage for the upcoming year, it’s essential to decide what type of Medicare beneficiary you are. Are you someone who would prefer to pay a little more on a monthly basis in exchange for peace of mind that you won’t have any unexpected expenses? Or would you rather pay a lower monthly premium and take the risk that your coverage may require high out-of-pocket expenses should you have a health issue? If you can answer this question for yourself, you’ll give a better starting point to determine what plan/program is a better fit and how much you will spend on said plan.
- Make a list of your current medications, dosages, and frequency. After analyzing the entirety of your coverage, the next step would be to write down every medication you take, the dosage, frequency, and brand. This list is going to guide your Part D plan selection.
- After completing steps 1-5, set an appointment with a Medicare advisor. After you’ve done the previous five steps, you have painted yourself a pretty thorough picture of your healthcare needs. Now it’s time to take this information to your Medicare advisor, so they can analyze and help you select the best coverage at the best price. Completing steps 1-5 prior to your call or appointment will make the process go much faster and smoother for you. *Helpful Tip: Always work with a non-captive Medicare advisor. They have access to all the plans and companies, not just one of them. This ensures you are in the best plan at the best price.
Remember, in order to ease the confusion, contact a Medicare representative to help make this AEP much smoother. If you don’t have a dedicated agent or aren’t sure, our toll-free Medicare hotline is open for questions, comments, concerns for anyone in the United States who needs consult on their Medicare plans/coverage at (888)-404-5049.