As a Medicare beneficiary, you’ve probably realized that Medicare changes every year. It adjusts your premiums and deductibles and this in turn causes updates to your chosen Medicare insurance plan. Your Medicare Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) letter can help prepare you for the changes that your Medicare plan will make for the following year.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan or a stand-alone Part D drug plan, you will receive an Annual Notice of Change Letter each year in September. (People with only a Medigap plan don’t receive these because Medigap plans do not have benefit changes from year to year).
The Medicare Annual Notice of Change is a document you receive in the mail that explains the changes that your Medicare Plan has made. Some changes you can see on an ANOC letter are increases or decreases in your monthly premiums, charges (copays, deductibles, etc.) service area, and drug formulary.
Medicare states that you should expect to receive your Annual Notice of Change each year during the month of September. If your plan makes changes to its benefits, premiums, copays, or networks, etc., the modifications will go into effect on January 1st the following year. The reason that your plan sends you the notice in September is so that you have time to review the plan changes. If you are unhappy with those changes, then you can use the Medicare Annual Election Period (Friday, October 15 to Tuesday, December 7) to select a new plan that will begin Saturday, January 1.
Every year, Medicare offers this period during which people can change their Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan. If you have a stand-alone Part D drug plan, you can change to a different Part D drug plan.
Be aware that your plan will send your ANOC letter to the address that you have on file with Medicare. If you have moved, it’s very important to notify Medicare at once so that your Annual Notice of Change doesn’t get lost in the mail.
As soon as you receive your Annual Notice of Change, you will want to review it thoroughly and make sure you plan will continue to meet your healthcare needs. You will also want to make sure you are still within the plan’s service area (This might also be the right time to contact your Medicare Consultant).
Most importantly, look for any medications that you take that are being dropped or are moving from one tier to another which will affect your copay for that medication. This is one of the things that many beneficiaries neglect to do but is important. You don’t want to find out in April—when it may be too late to make changes—that one of your expensive brand name medications is no longer being offered next year by your plan.
Another change you can make during the AEP is switching from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare. Most people who do this also enroll in a Part D drug plan to go alongside their Original Medicare.
It’s important to note that the Annual Election Period has nothing to do with Medigap (Medicare Supplement) plans. Some people think that this period can also be used to switch Medigap plans without going through medical underwriting. That’s not the case at all.
If you conclude that your plan’s upcoming changes won’t affect you much, you can let your plan automatically renew. However, if the explanation of changes worries you, contact your Medicare consultant to guide you and help you be comfortable with your plan choices for the next year.
Kenneth Kiker, CHC spent 49 years in the insurance industry before retiring in 2011 after working in United Healthcare’s Tucson office for 6 years specializing in their Medicare division. He continues to work with Medicare beneficiaries helping them with their Medicare coverage decisions. Ken achieved his Certified Health Consultant (CHC) designation in 1990 after attending The CHC School of Marketing at Purdue University and passing a series of national program exams. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.