Why is the Medicare Open Enrollment Period Important?

October 28, 2016

Each year Medicare invites people eligible for Medicare benefits to take part in the Medicare Open Enrollment Period.  The Period lasts from October 15 through December 7, and coverage begins from January 1 of the following year.

Also known as the Annual Election Period, this time gives Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to change their Medicare coverage plans: switch among various plans, or enroll with new ones.  But many experts say that not enough people are taking advantage of this opportunity.  This Period is an important time of the year for Medicare beneficiaries, and here is why they should take this period seriously:

  1. Enroll, Review, Switch, Leave

The Open Enrollment Period gives newly eligible people a chance to enroll in Medicare, and existing beneficiaries a chance to review their plans.  As plans may change every year with respect to offers, and premium and prescription costs, people should review their plans in detail before the start of, or during the Open Enrollment Period.  Moreover, individual needs may change from year to year, so this Period is crucial for people who want an additional service or want to be dis-enrolled from a particular plan.  If you are enrolled with a Medicare Advantage Plan, or a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan, look out for the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and/or Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from your Plan.  Review these notices carefully for changes in plan coverage and/or costs for the upcoming year.  If anything needs to be changed, it can be done during the Open Enrollment Period.  If need be, additional help can be sought from Medical Advisors.  People enrolled with Medicare through e-TeleQuote Insurance Inc. can contact Health Insurance Advisors anytime through the website www.e-telequote.com, e-TeleQuote Health Companion Application, or the call center at toll free number.

  1. Choose from an Updated Assortment of Plans

Even if you are satisfied with your Plan, it is a good idea to look at new and updated options for better coverage and cost minimization purposes.  This year, Medicare Open Enrollment includes an assortment of 2 Preferred Provider Organization Plans, 6 Health Maintenance Organization Plans, and 21 Prescription-only Plans.  The offers may vary from plan to plan and the location of the beneficiary, but they are worth exploring for additional or cost-saving benefits.

  1. Enroll in a Medigap Policy

All who are eligible can enroll in the Medigap Policy or Medicare Supplement Plan during the Open Enrollment Period.  Prospective beneficiaries should be eligible for Medicare, and enrolled with Original Medicare Part B.  During the Open Enrollment Period, people can sign up for Medigap Policy even if they have health problems.  After this Period, a person will have to be medically qualified to enroll with a Medigap Policy.  In other words, before and after the Open Enrollment Period, Medicare can refuse the Medigap Policy unless prescribed by a medical professional, whereas that referral is not needed if enrolling during this Period.  There are ten various Medigap Policies.  Information regarding those Policies is provided  at http://www.medicare.gov.

  1. Choose a new Medicare Advantage (Part C) Plan

If you are a Medicare beneficiary, the Open Enrollment Period, in most cases, is the only time you can pick a new Medicare Advantage Plan.  Medicare Advantage beneficiaries can also leave their Medicare Advantage Plan to switch back to Original Medicare (Part A and B), or switch among the various Medicare Advantage Plans.

  1. Choose a Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D) Plan

Most Medicare Advantage Plans include prescription drug coverage, but if that is not the case, beneficiaries of Medicare Part A and B, and Medicare Advantage can enroll in Prescription Drug Plans during the Open Enrollment Period.

  1. Seek Help

During the Open Enrollment Period, you will have multiple dedicated and active resources to help you out with your inquiries.  For stand-alone Prescription Drug Plans, you can use the Plan Finder Tool on www.medicare.gov.  The Tool will help you compare plans based on your prescribed medications, nearby or preferred pharmacies, and drug costs.  For Medicare Advantage plans, you can call 1-800-MEDICARE to find out which plans are being offered in your area.  Once you have this list you can check plan details on www.medicare.gov for the best fit with your needs.  The next step is to call the Plan itself, in order to confirm all information.  Some important things to confirm include inquiries about covered drugs, and pharmacies, doctors and hospitals in the Plan’s network.  Finally, additional help can be sought from your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which can help you understand your Medicare coverage options, and/or your Medicare Insurance Provider which can help you with more information about Plans, and to enroll with, switch or drop them.

Sources: Medicare2017.us, Medicare.gov & Pressofatlanticcity.com  

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