In the last issue, we addressed some of the most asked questions that we receive. At this time of each year, the most asked question is – “What is AEP and how does it affect me?”
AEP stands for Medicare’s “Annual Enrollment Period” which runs annually from October 15th through December 7th.
Every year, there seems to be a lot of confusion as to what we, as Medicare recipients, should be doing during this time. Everyone enrolled in Medicare will make a decision during this period of time. Either we will do nothing and keep the current coverages that we have now or make changes to those coverages.
If the company or companies that you’ve chosen to supplement your Medicare coverages with have made any changes to your benefit package, they should be contacting you soon with a list of what those changes will be. If those changes continue to meet your needs, you don’t need to do anything. January 1, 2019, those changes will automatically take place.
If your Medicare Advantage and/or Part D Prescription Drug insurance policies make changes and you don’t take time to review them during AEP, on January 1st, 2019, the changes will take place anyway. Often, it’s when you attempt to file a claim, that you find your policy has changed. The earliest you can do something about it then, is during the following year’s enrollment period, which will then take effect the next January 1st.
You will make decisions or decisions will be made for you! Personally, I like to feel I have a little control of the process, since it’s my money they are collecting for the premiums.
Some of the changes you might see if you have:
Changes in premiums
Increases or decreases in benefits
Additions or deletions of services
Changes in deductibles
Increases or decreases in copayments
Changes in network doctors and/or hospitals
Changes in out-of-pocket maximums
Changes in customer service
Adding or deleting policies in some counties or states
Companies who no longer offer Medicare Advantage policies
Part D (prescription drug)
Prescriptions that are no longer covered
Prescriptions that weren’t covered are added to the covered list
Copayments on the prescriptions have increased or decreased
Deductibles have increased or decreased
Changes in the “Donut Hole”
Caps on benefits have increased or decreased
Changes in customer service
Changes in availability of generic or name brand drugs
Prescriptions that may change from one tier to another
Rate increases (or reductions)
These are a lot of potential changes and this happens every year – How are we supposed to keep up with these types of changes? Many people don’t, and often these are the ones who suddenly find themselves in medical and financial trouble with few options. One thing that will help is to keep the Medicare and You booklet that comes in the mail about this time every year. Many of the changes to Medicare will be in these booklets. Look through it … don’t throw it away. Put it on your shelf for future reference. The premium, deductible, and copayment changes will made known to us in this booklet toward the end of the calendar year, especially during an election year such as 2018.
Don’t get caught up in all the ads trying to sell you what they claim to be the “best” plans. They all can’t be the best! Find someone who will council you and not just try to sell you something. If you are soon turning 65, be especially cautious to take the time and effort to purchase the plan that will best serve you in the future, when your health will most likely decline. Purchase today for tomorrow’s needs.
Remember that Medicare Advantage plans are government subsidized. When you purchase one of these plans, they are only guaranteed for one year. Medicare forwards your monthly premiums to the insurance company with a considerable sum of money from the federal budget. How can this business practice continue as the federal budget continues to plunge further and further into the red? That sum originally was $156 billion dollars a year. That’s $156 billion, with a “B” and is decreasing 10% per year for each year from 2014 to 2023. The only way that the “Advantage” plans can continue to survive is to increase premiums and/or reduce benefits.
Medicare Supplements are also guaranteed issue at 65, but they are guaranteed to be renewed for the rest of your life, if you pay your premiums on time.
You may be eligible to change to a Medicare Supplement during AEP. If you own a Medicare Supplement, the only reason that you’ll need to be concerned about AEP’s in the future is if you need to make an adjustment to your prescription drug benefits under Part D. Otherwise, you can sit back and forget all these annual changes in your insurance benefits. It’s just that simple!
And by the way, keep on the lookout for your new Medicare ID cards. They should be arriving anytime now. As always, give us a call if we can help, especially during this annual confusing period. Get it done right the first time, then kick back and enjoy your retirement years!
Orion Steen is a licensed agent and specializes in Medicare supplemental plans. He has been advising his clients on life and health insurance matters in Arizona for over 45 years. He can be reached for related questions by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, call toll-free 888-846-6891 or cell 623-846-6891.