At the end of every year, individuals enrolled in Medicare can update their options through what’s known as Open Enrollment or Annual Election Period (AEP). Members can make changes to their plans from October through the end of the year. Here’s what Medicare health plan members should think about as they renew their coverage options.
Annual Medicare Plan Changes
The Medicare system goes through changes that take effect at the beginning of each year to bring members up to date on their premiums, deductibles, and benefits. Seniors may have alternate ways to pay for healthcare or have gone through life changes that call for corresponding coverage changes.
These annual options are offered for Medicare health plans and Part D prescription drug plans. If you carry Medicare Advantage (M.A.) coverage or Part D coverage, you can update your plan from October 15 through December 7. The update will then take effect on New Year’s Day 2022.
If you are a member enrolled in an M.A. plan or Part D, look for Medicare’s Annual Notice of Change in the mail by September 30, 2021. This notice explains changes in your premium, copayment, or other parts of your plan. Be aware that the plan’s formulary, which is a list of drugs preferred by a committee of medical experts, may change from year to year.
Changes in Prescription Drugs
As Medicare says on its website Medicare.gov, all of its plans cover a wide range of prescription drugs for members, and each plan has its own formulary. Drugs are placed in different tiers with different costs. Drugs in higher tiers, such as those that treat cancer or HIV/AIDS, are more expensive. Insulin patients should pay attention to enhanced coverage in their Part D plans. All M.A. members should explore the plan’s supplemental benefits.
If your plan is expiring, you should receive a notice by October 2, which will explain your healthcare coverage options. When you approach an agent or broker who sells prescription drug plans, make sure you are dealing with legitimate professionals and not scammers. You can report suspicious marketers of Part D prescription drugs to the Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-855-613-7080.
Other Options to Consider
During Open Enrollment, you can change your M.A. plan or your stand-alone Part D plan. One option is to return to Original Medicare while choosing a stand-alone Part D plan. If you are already enrolled in Original Medicare, you can join an M.A. plan.
By going to Medicare.gov and using the site’s Plan Finder, you can look up new M.A. and Part D plans in your area. This information is also listed in the official Medicare handbook called Medicare & You. Another option is to contact your local Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program (HICAP). This program is also known as State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).