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It’s that time of year again, the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is upon us. If you’ve been a Medicare recipient prior to this year, then you are all too familiar with the implications of AEP. If this is your first enrollment season, then you are about to experience what can be a frustrating and stressful time for a Medicare enrollee.

This AEP a number of new carriers and plans will be introduced to residents of Southern Pinal County to be effective in January 2022. This is one reason to review your current coverage and make sure you are aware of the new options available.

AEP begins on October 15th and runs through December 7th each year and is what I call a wild card for beneficiaries. During the Medicare AEP, beneficiaries can alter their coverage under specific programs such as Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription plans. Often, people make the mistake of thinking this is the time to change Medicare Supplement plans, however those can be changed anytime throughout the year, The main things to focus on during AEP are switching from or to a Medicare Advantage plan and entering or changing your prescription drug plans.

WHAT CHANGES CAN YOU MAKE DURING AEP?

Here is a quick rundown of what you can do during the Annual Enrollment Period.

  • Change to a Medicare Advantage plan from original Medicare, Part A & Part B.
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare, Part A & Part B.
  • Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another (regardless either plan offers drug coverage).
  • Enroll in a Part B prescription drug plan.
  • Change from one prescription plan to another.
  • opt out of Medicare drug coverage completely.

Changes you make during AEP go into effect January 1 of the next year.

You may be wondering why it is necessary to monitor these plans during AEP, and the simple answer is that these plans can change in coverage and price every year. In some cases, the change can be significant. That is why it is always worth having your Medicare advisor analyze your existing plans and medications to ensure you’re still in the most-effective plan every year during AEP. Don’t wait, you could be locked into a plan with much higher premiums or with hole in your coverage needs if you miss the AEP window.

One bright spot is that if you do miss the AEP window, Medicare gives you an extra three-month opportunity to make changes although not the wild card changes that are available during AEP. Ask your advisor for information on the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.

To curb the stress and confusion that comes from the Medicare AEP season, listed below is a list of 6 things that you should do to prepare:

  1. Confirm your eligibility. This is obvious, but you must be eligible to enroll in Medicare plans. To find out if you are eligible and your expected premium, visit https://www.medicare.gov/elibilitypremiumcalc/.
  2. Analyze your existing coverage thoroughly. Take some time to consider your past year of coverage. Weigh the pros and cons of the specific plan you’re in, the total expenses (including prescription medications) of the year. Consider the out-of-pocket expenses were worth the healthcare you received.
  3. Make notes of any changes in medication or health that could impact your coverage. Write this all out and give your coverage an overall satisfaction rating for the year.
  4. Compare prices of plan options for the coming year. There are MANY plans (including the new ones mentioned earlier) and carriers to choose from. It is essential to decide what type of Medicare beneficiary you are. Are you someone that would prefer to pay more monthly for the freedom to choose when and where you access healthcare? Or would you prefer to pay little or $0 premium for a plan that is network driven and with copays when you access care.
  5. Make a list of your current medications, dosages, and frequency.
  6. After completing steps one to five, set an appointment with you Medicare advisor. You advisor can analyze and help you select the coverage that is the best price for you at the right price.

Once you have decided and have enrolled in your plan, you will have a comfort level you are looking for and you should be set until next year’s Annual Enrollment Period.

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: kennethk40@outlook.com


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