Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), also known as the Fall Open Enrollment or the Fall Annual Election Period, is a critical time to sign up for or change your Medicare coverage. The AEP runs from October 15 to December 7 each year.
Here are ten things to keep in mind during this period:
1. Enrollment timing and eligibility.
Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period is the time to make changes that will be effective from January 1st of the following year, a prime opportunity to select a new Medicare Advantage or Part D plan.
Those with Medicare Advantage can switch back to Original Medicare and enroll in a Part D plan for drug coverage. Others may be eligible to purchase a Medigap policy to cover Original Medicare costs, but there are limitations.
2. Before enrolling, review your current coverage.
Take the time to assess your existing Medicare health and drug coverage. If you’re unsatisfied, this is the perfect time to make changes. If you’re on Original Medicare, check the Medicare & You handbook for next year’s costs and benefits. For Medicare Advantage or Part D plans, review the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and/or Evidence of Coverage (EOC) to understand any changes for the upcoming year.
Even if you’re happy with your current coverage, exploring other Medicare options in your area might reveal plans better suited to your needs at a more affordable price.
3. Make enrolling in a new plan as easy as possible.
Reputable websites like Medicare.gov can provide valuable information and tools to help you compare plans and make informed decisions, and enrolling in a new plan can be done directly through Medicare.
But you can also use specialized groups like Guided Medicare, part of the Guided Solutions team, for guidance and support throughout the process. The benefits of using Guided Medicare include no additional fees, access to more options from popular carriers, and assistance from knowledgeable representatives. You can also email Guided Medicare or call them at 1-800-351-7850.
4. If you’re unhappy with your Medicare Advantage choice, you can change it later.
If you become dissatisfied with a Medicare Advantage Plan selected during AEP, you can change your plan during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period (MA OEP) that takes place annually from January 1st through March 31st. Changes will be effective on the first day of the month following your enrollment.
During Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment, you can switch between Medicare Advantage Plans or return to Original Medicare with or without a Part D prescription drug plan.
5. This is not the same as enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplaces®.
Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period is specifically for changing your Medicare coverage. It’s different from Open Enrollment for a state or federal Health Insurance Marketplace® — which is for uninsured and underinsured individuals but is not intended for people with or eligible for Medicare.
You don’t need to join the Marketplace if you have Medicare. However, if you have coverage through the Marketplace and want Medicare instead, you should generally sign up for Medicare when you’re first eligible (usually when you turn 65) to avoid a delay in Medicare coverage and the possibility of a Medicare late enrollment penalty.
6. Consider recent and potential changes in your healthcare needs.
Health conditions can evolve, and you may need different meds or services than you did before. So, review your prescription drug usage and any upcoming medical treatments or procedures and ensure that the plan you choose will cover your needs in the coming year.
7. Check for extra benefits and incentives that might be available.
Some plans offer additional benefits beyond the standard coverage of Original Medicare — things like vision, dental, hearing, fitness programs, and even transportation services. During AEP, carefully review the benefits offered by different plans in your area to see if any of them provide additional services that meet your needs and lifestyle.
Note that the availability of benefits varies by plan and location, so you’ve got to compare the options thoroughly. Again, we can help.
8. Keep premiums, deductibles, and co-payments top of mind
While evaluating plans, pay close attention to each option’s premium costs, deductibles, and co-payments. The premium is the monthly amount you pay for the insurance coverage, while the deductible is the amount you must pay out-of-pocket before the plan begins to cover certain services. Co-payments are those fixed amounts you pay for covered services or prescriptions.
This is important! Not all Medicare plans are the same; they have varying premium structures and cost-sharing arrangements, so consider your budget and health needs to find a plan that strikes a decent (and affordable) balance between monthly and out-of-pocket costs.
9. Don’t forget to review plan ratings and customer feedback.
Medicare rates Medicare Advantage and Part D plans on a five-star scale, with ratings based on customer satisfaction, quality of care, and plan performance. Before enrolling, check the ratings of the plans you’re considering. The higher the rating, the more likely you’ll be to get better service and health outcomes!
It’s also a good idea to read customer feedback and reviews for a peek into the experiences of current plan members. This can sometimes help you evaluate a plan’s strengths and weaknesses.
10. Enroll early to avoid the last-minute rush.
Don’t wait too long to make up your mind. Explore your options early and give yourself enough time to compare plans, understand the benefits and limitations of each, and get assistance. This way, you’ll avoid potential website delays or customer service wait times common toward the final days of the enrollment period.
Plus, enrolling now ensures that your coverage will start on January 1, 2024, with no interruption or delays.
Get ready for Medicare AEP: From October 15 through December 7, 2023
By considering all the above during Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period, you can ensure that your Medicare coverage continues to meet your health and financial needs for the upcoming year.
Remember to plan ahead, review all your plan materials, compare different plans, seek expert advice, and consider total costs to select the one that best meets your healthcare needs and financial situation.
Being proactive and informed can ensure you have the right coverage to support your well-being throughout the coming year.
Get a free consultation about your Medicare choices today!