Preparing for Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) for Medicare starts on October 15th and ends on December 7th of every year.  During AEP you can make changes to your current Medicare coverage and these changes take effect on January 1st of the following year.  Changes include:

  • Enrolling in Medicare Advantage from Original Medicare
  • Changing from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Signing up for a Part D prescription drug plan
  • Changing from one Part D prescription plan to another
  • Switching from Medicare Advantage back to Original Medicare
  • Canceling your prescription drug coverage (penalties may apply)

As you start to prepare for AEP, you will want to make sure you have the following information available as you start your research:

  • Medicare cards: have your red, white and blue Medicare card, your Medicare Advantage Plan ID card and/or your Prescription Drug Plan card.  All beneficiaries should have their new Medicare cards by now.  If your Medicare card still has your social security number on it you should request a new card from Medicare ASAP.
  • Medical receipts: have your medical receipts and bills from the past year so you can determine if your current coverage was enough to meet your needs.
  • Providers: make sure you have a list of doctors and specialists that you are currently seeing, including locations and group name.
  • Prescriptions: create a thorough list of current prescription medications, including names and dosages.
  • ANOC: your current Medicare Advantage Plan’s Annual Notice of Change will be sent to you in September.  It will outline all the changes to your plan for the upcoming year so you can review and make sure it continues to meet your needs.

Before AEP begins on October 15th, start comparing plans based on your needs and preferences.  You will want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What did you like most about your current plan? If your current plan is working – keep it!  Many people have found a plan that works with them for years.
  • What is the one thing you wish your current plan had that it doesn’t? Make sure to get what you want.  Every year competitive plans come out and depending on your needs, your current plan might not have it.  Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
  • Has your RX changed over the year? This is one of the most important areas to think about when evaluating changing plans.  Are your prescriptions covered and are you getting the best price?
  • Are you seeing any specialists? If you’re seeing a specialist make sure they’re part of your network and covered under your plan.
  • How is your partnership with your PCP? People often choose a Medicare plan based on what your provider accepts.  If you have a solid relationship with your doctor, keep your plan!  If you’re looking for a new doctor make sure they are covered under your plan.

New programs to be aware of coming in 2021 include:

  • The Senior Savings Program for insulins. This program passed in May of 2020 to provide relief on the cost of insulins for diabetics. The program goes into effect 01/01/2021, this program could save you hundreds of dollars per year. Not all plans are required to participate, so you will need to ask your plan or trusted advisor.
  • The ESRD health question will be eliminated from all MAPD plans providing an opportunity to change MAPD plans if you have this condition. This is part of the 21st Century Cures act.

When you start to research Medicare plans, you should enlist the aid of an independent licensed Medicare Insurance Agent who will be able to answer your questions and provide comprehensive information related to your search.  These agents do not cost anything and are one of the best resources you can access for information.

If you choose to work with a local Medicare agent, they can be one of the biggest advocates for your healthcare needs – they keep on top of the latest trends, plans, providers and are not afraid to make the calls on your behalf.  Agents will be able to openly discuss 2021 plans after 10/01.