The following was written by one of our professional contacts, Tim Schatz, Medicare Specialist with MN Health Insurance Network:
With the Medicare Annual Election Period quickly approaching, now is the time to prepare!
What is the Annual Election Period?
The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP), otherwise known as Medicare open enrollment, allows Medicare beneficiaries the ability to make changes to their current Medical and or prescription drug (Part D) coverage. The AEP begins on October 15th and runs through December 7th. Coverage changes made during this time will become effective on January 1st.
How do I prepare for the AEP?
All Medicare beneficiaries will receive an annual notice of change letter from their current medical and prescription drug insurance in early October. The letter from the insurance providers will clearly state specific changes to the Medicare beneficiary's insurance that will take effect in the new calendar year. It is of utmost importance that Medicare beneficiaries review these letters and determine whether they are happy with their insurance plan or wish to shop their insurance. Members happy with their current plan and any proposed changes will automatically renew, provided their plan is continued in the new calendar year. Members who would like to review their insurance options or change to a new plan are encouraged to do so during the AEP (October 15 - December 7).
How do I know if I have good insurance?
The two most common reasons why Medicare beneficiaries make changes to their medical and/ or prescription drug plans is that the plan itself has changed or the beneficiaries' medical needs have changed. In either of these situations, most Medicare beneficiaries are able to change to a new plan without having to medically qualify, provided they enroll during the AEP. When evaluating health or prescription drug insurance this AEP, beneficiaries will want to ask themselves the following questions:
• How Much Is My Insurance Really Costing Me?
- It is important to calculate the projected "total cost" of your medical insurance and prescription drug plans. To calculate "total cost," be sure to include the premium cost, copay costs and coinsurance expenses you incur for both your medical and prescription drug plans.
• Where Can I Receive Care?
- Most providers have a very large network, especially when in the residence state. However, many providers offer reduced network access when traveling outside of your residence state. If you plan on vacationing for more than two weeks out of the year, you will want to look into how you are covered under your plan.
• Are My Medications Still Covered?
- Each year, prescription drug insurers make changes to either their list of approved medications or the level of the drug coverage. One little change in this area can mean an enormous cost increase to a Medicare beneficiary. Beneficiaries with costly medications will want to check with their prescription drug insurance provider each year to confirm that their medications are covered and at what cost.
I Need Help! Now What?
For the "do-it-yourself" beneficiaries that like to research options on their own, one good resource is the www.medicare.gov website often referred to as the "Bible" of Medicare. Here you will find resources to better understand Medicare, enroll in Medicare and run prescription drug analyses to your heart's content. For others that would like no cost personalized assistance, contact your Financial Advisor for a recommendation to a local Medicare Specialist.