Table of Contents:

  1. Review Your Coverage
  2. Survey the Marketplace
  3. Consider Financial Assistance
  4. Mark Your Calendar

Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) starts on October 15th and runs to December 7th. Throughout that period, Medicare beneficiaries can review their policies and make any of the following updates:

  • Switch from Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) to a Medicare Advantage plan or vice versa
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Enroll in Medicare Part D (a later enrollment penalty may apply)
  • Switch from one Medicare Part D plan to another
  • Drop Medicare Part D

Any updates will go into effect on January 1st.

No matter how tempting it might be to simply re-enroll in your current plan, doing so could mean missing out on potential savings, settling for a lower quality of care, or spending significantly more than you’d like. Check out our tips for navigating the AEP and selecting a plan that’s suited to your unique financial and healthcare profile.

Review Your Coverage

If you’re already a Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Part D beneficiary, you’ll likely be receiving some important information from your provider in September. Watch out for a “notice of change” in the mail. This document outlines any changes to your plan for the coming year. In addition to rising or falling costs, it may include changes to your provider network and drug formularies. Carefully consider how these changes may affect your out-of-pocket expenses or access to necessary services.

Original Medicare beneficiaries — or anyone interested in switching back to Part A and B — should consult the latest edition of the Medicare & You handbook. Each year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) publish this guide to familiarize beneficiaries with changes to the program.

Reviewing your plan should entail more than simply comparing premiums. List the providers you expect to see throughout the year, the prescriptions you’ll take, and the procedures you might require. Think, too, about any unexpected expenses you experienced throughout the last year and whether you might incur similar new expenses in the future. Your healthcare needs will change as you get older, so it’s crucial to ensure your plan can accommodate these shifts.

Survey the Marketplace

Now that you’ve reviewed your current plan, it’s time to see how it stacks up against your options. CMS makes it easy to compare plans with its Medicare Plan Finder tool. Simply enter your ZIP code, and you’ll have the opportunity to compare different plans and insurance providers. This year, the tool includes several new features to help beneficiaries better assess the Part D and Medicare Advantage plans available in their region. If you’re new to the Medicare Plan Finder, don’t wait until the last moment to try it out. Take time to familiarize with the tool so you can take full advantage of its capabilities.

Don’t want to go it alone? Contact Marigold for a one-on-one consultation with a knowledgeable, licensed insurance agent from our parent company, IHC Specialty Benefits. Together, we’ll review your options and select coverage that’s perfectly suited to your needs, resources, and lifestyle.

Consider Financial Assistance

Medicare beneficiaries who struggle with premiums and other expenses have several options for obtaining extra financial support. These include:

  • Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs): The four different types of MSPs help low-income, low-asset beneficiaries with certain healthcare expenses. The Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program is the most comprehensive, covering all premiums, copays, coinsurance, and deductibles associated with Original Medicare. Eligibility is determined by state Medicaid offices.
  • Extra Help: Managed by the Social Security Administration, Extra Help covers Medicare Part D expenses for low-income, low-asset beneficiaries. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for either Partial Extra Help or Full Extra Help. Most beneficiaries who enroll in certain MSPs are automatically eligible for the program.

Mark Your Calendar

Don’t let the AEP pass you by. Start honestly and objectively reviewing your coverage and your life. How can a healthcare plan best serve you now and into the future?

Information adapted from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services