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How Should I Prepare for the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period?

Whether you receive your insurance through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, you should review your options each year during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). AEP is one of the busiest times of the year in Medicare insurance, and it only lasts from October 15th-December 7th. This is one of the few opportunities you have to pick up or switch Medicare Advantage plans, and make changes to your Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan. Being prepared for AEP can ensure that you have the best plan for your needs, and keep you from feeling stressed.

Reviewing your options and switching coverage in such a short timeframe can be difficult, so we’ve provided you with some tips below.

1. Review Your Annual Notice of Change

Each year before AEP begins, Medicare Advantage carriers and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan carriers send out an Annual Notice of Change letter. It’s crucial that you review this letter because it details the coverage that your current plan will offer in the new year. There could be significant changes, so the plan that you’re on right now may not be the best fit for you next year.

2. Determine and Make a List of What’s Important to You

When you’re sorting through information on insurance plans, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Take a moment to write out what you like about your current coverage, and what you wish was different. Making a checklist ahead of time can help you narrow down your options and easily eliminate plans that don’t work for you.

Consider the following for your checklist:

  • Networks: Can you see your preferred healthcare provider or use the pharmacy that you like? If you travel, will you be covered?
  • Cost: Is there a premium for the plan? What are the deductibles or copays? What is the out-of-pocket maximum limit? What is the total cost for the year for the medications you take?
  • Benefits: Can you receive coverage for the services that you need? Do you need referrals? Do you need prior authorization on any services or medications?

3. Evaluate Your Options

Once you know what your coverage for the coming year will look like, and you have a list of what’s important to you, you can begin to evaluate your options. Will your plan meet your requirements? Is there a better fit available? If you’re reviewing your options for health insurance, you should review Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans as well as Medicare Advantage plans. Medigap plans and Advantage plans have several key differences, and there’s no one plan that’s right for everyone.

4. Select Your Coverage Early

Too many people wait until the end of AEP to make their decision. You can significantly reduce your stress level by signing up for the coverage that you want within the first few weeks. This way, you won’t feel pressured into simply choosing a plan to get it off of your plate, and you have plenty of time to complete the application process. You can continue to evaluate your options and make changes to your coverage for the upcoming year throughout AEP if you wish to do so.

5. If You Have a Medicare Supplement Plan, Don’t Wait Until AEP

One of the benefits of a Medicare Supplement Plan is that you don’t need to wait until AEP to make changes. Unless you’re leaving your Medigap plan for an Advantage plan, you can apply for different Medigap plan letter or with a new carrier at any time of the year. If you wait until AEP, you’d be submitting an application when the wait times for approval are typically the longest, as carriers are swamped with people trying to switch from their Medicare Advantage plan. You’re also risking overpaying for your coverage for months while you wait for AEP.

The Annual Enrollment Period can be overwhelming, but if you’re prepared, it doesn’t have to be. It’s crucial that you evaluate your options each AEP as your plan can change from year-to-year, and there may be a better option available. You can use our tips to reduce the hassle of sorting through insurance plans, and ensure that you select the right coverage for the upcoming year.

Nothing on this website should ever be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult with your medical provider regarding diagnosis or treatment for a health condition, including decisions about the correct medication for your condition, as well as prior to undertaking any specific exercise or dietary routine.

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