The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP), which runs from October 15 through December 7 of each year, is a crucial time for beneficiaries because it allows them to compare plans and make changes to their Medicare coverage for the coming year. For most people, this is their only opportunity of the year to change plans, so missing this period can mean being locked into the wrong plan for a whole year.
To ensure that you make the best choice for your healthcare during the Annual Election Period, it’s important to understand what changes you can make and when.
What Preparations Should You Make for AEP?
First of all, it always helps to understand how your Medicare works before making any changes.
You can watch our “Medicare Basics” training video for a thorough recap of how Medicare works. Understanding the fundamentals of Medicare and how it functions would be a great starting point.
Secondly, be on the lookout for your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) letter that will be mailed to you during the month of September. This letter explains your current coverage and how it is changing for next year. You may even find out that your plan is no longer available next year!
Lastly, make sure you have your Medicare card, your insurance ID cards, and an updated list of your medications, and your doctors. These are all the materials that will allow you to compare plans.
Be Aware of the Deadlines for When You Can Modify Your Coverage
The Medicare Annual Election Period starts on October 15 and ends on December 7, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. During this time, you can make certain changes to your Medicare coverages:
- shift from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
- switch from one drug plan to another
- leave your Medicare Advantage plan and enroll in a standalone prescription drug plan
- leave your standalone Drug plan for a Medicare Advantage plan
Any modifications to your coverage become effective on January 1 of the coming year.
When switching plans, you will be automatically disenrolled from your previous Medicare Advantage / Prescription drug plan, so there is no need to cancel.
Think About Supplementing Your Original Medicare Plan if You Have Coverage Gaps
If you have only Original Medicare Part A and Part B, without an Advantage, Medigap, or Drug plan, the AEP will likely be your only opportunity of the year to add coverage. Even if you are satisfied with your current Original Medicare coverage, it might make sense to at least learn about your options in case a better plan is available.
In many parts of the country, you can select a $0 Medicare Advantage plan that includes a prescription drug plan, dental vision hearing, and a free gym membership.
If Original Medicare suits your needs and you require medication coverage, you may consider adding a Part D plan. These private insurance choices, which include prescription drug coverage, can be purchased separately.
If you need additional insurance and are dealing with the expense of care, Medigap is another choice outside of AEP.
Compare Plan Options
Now that you’ve brushed up on the basics of Medicare and understand what changes you can make during the Annual Election Period, here are some factors to consider when shopping for new coverage.
What to consider when comparing Medicare plans:
- Monthly premiums
- Co-pays for doctors and medications
- Doctor networks
- Maximum out-of-pocket limits
- Additional benefits like flex cards, transportation, and gym memberships
- Your specific health needs
When speaking with an expert to evaluate the plans available in your area for the coming year, many times, the most important thing is cost savings for prescription drugs. Plans can change their drug co-pays each year, and new plans are constantly being added. This is an easy way for people on fixed incomes to save money.
Find Help With the Medicare Annual Election Period
You can modify your current Original Medicare coverage during the Medicare Annual Election Period, which runs from October 15 to December 7 of every year.
This is an extremely important time of the year because it may be your only chance to review the changes to your existing coverage and make a switch if needed.
Contact The Medicare Family for more information and to compare the plans available in your area.