It’s Medicare Annual Open Enrollment. Here’s what you need to know.

It’s Medicare Annual Open Enrollment. Here’s what you need to know.

Enrolling and understanding Medicare coverage may seem like a stressful task.

Jeanet Reyes-Cordero, Corporate Account Manager for Medicare Solutions at Advocate Aurora Health, breaks down Medicare Annual Open Enrollment into five key areas.

  1. What is Medicare Annual Open Enrollment?

Medicare Annual Open Enrollment is also referred to as the Annual Election Period (AEP). It occurs every year from Oct. 15 – Dec. 7. During this period, Medicare enrollees can join, drop or change their Medicare health plan and prescription drug coverage to better meet their needs. Changes made during AEP take effect Jan. 1 of the following year.

  1. What changes can I make during AEP?

During AEP, a beneficiary can do the following:

  • Switch from Medicare Advantage (Part C) to Original Medicare (Part A & B).
  • Switch from Original Medicare (Part A & B) to Medicare Advantage (Part C).
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan to another Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) plan to another Part D plan.
  • Enroll in or opt out of Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) coverage entirely.
  1. What is the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)?

The Annual Notice of Change letters are mailed to individuals no later than September 30 from their current Medicare (Part C) and drug (Part D) plans.

“This notice will inform you what’s changing in your plan for the following year. Typically, the cover letter in the packet provides a summary list of changes comparing the current year’s benefits to following year’s benefits,” Reyes-Cordero says.

  1. How do I know if I need to change plans?

Medicare health and drug plans can make changes to plans each year.

“For this reason, it’s important for individuals to carefully review their Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) statement to ensure that their existing plan continues to meet their health care needs,” says Reyes-Cordero.

There may be several reasons to evaluate changing your plan during AEP such as:

  • Your monthly plan premium cost is going up
  • Your co-pays are significantly increasing
  • You find a plan with greater benefits and/or lower annual maximum out of pocket costs
  • Your doctor’s and/or preferred hospital are no longer in your plan’s network
  • Your preferred pharmacies are no longer in network
  • One of your more expensive prescription medications will no longer be covered by your plan

Keep in mind, you should use the Annual Election Period as a time to review and determine if their current plan still meets your health needs for the following year.

“If the changes seem minor to you, then most likely, you won’t need to do anything at all,” says Reyes-Cordero.

  1. What are available Medicare resources?
  • For more information on Medicare resources and related services in your area:
  • To view and compare 2021 available plans in your area, visit the Medicare plan finder at Medicare.gov/plan-compare or call 1-800-MEDICARE after Oct. 1.
  • State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselors are available to assist you. To contact SHIP, visit www.shiptacenter.org or call 877-839-2675. TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.

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About the Author

Liz Fitzgerald
Liz Fitzgerald

Liz Fitzgerald, health enews contributor, is an integrated marketing coordinator at Advocate Aurora Health.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communication from Marquette University.  Outside of work, Liz has a goal of visiting all U.S. national parks.