Preparing for Medicare’s Annual Election Period

By on July 29, 2019
Medicare's Annual Election Period

Medicare’s Annual Election Period (AEP) confuses people daily. Many people think that if they wait until the AEP, also called the Fall Open Enrollment Period, they will be able to enroll in a Medigap plan without having to answer any health questions. However, that isn’t the case.

The AEP is technically only for enrolling in, switching, or dropping Medicare Advantage plans and Part D drug plans. You can apply to change Medigap plans at any time of the year. However, unless you are in your one-time Medigap open enrollment window, you will likely have to answer health questions. 

The AEP starts on October 15th and ends on December 7th of every year. You shouldn’t wait until the AEP begins to start your research. You should start preparing for Medicare’s Annual Election Period by September. 

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Review Your Annual Notice of Change

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D drug plan, your plan’s carrier will send you an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) by the end of September. This notice will explain all the changes your plan will be making for the following year. 

Changes such as premium increases or decreases, formulary changes, new benefits, and benefits being eliminated can be found on your ANOC. You will want to review your ANOC thoroughly as soon as you receive it. Reviewing this notice will allow you to make an informed decision during the AEP.

List Out Your Medications

Because drug formularies in Medicare Advantage plans and Part D plans can change from year to year, and you can be prescribed new medications, you should list out your current medications in order of most important to least important. 

If you take a lot of medications, it may be hard to find a plan that covers all of your medications. Listing your medications in this manner will help you ensure that your most important drugs are covered first, and then you can check to see if your other, less important meds are covered. Another way you can list your medications is from most expensive to least expensive. 

Check Which Plans Your Doctors Accept

Medicare Advantage plans have doctor networks that you have to use for your medical care. Doctors can choose which plans they want to participate in and which ones they no longer wish to participate in at any time of the year. This means your doctors may not always accept your plan. 

During your preparation for the AEP, speak with each of your doctors’ offices to see which plans they plan on accepting for the following year. If they no longer accept your current plan, you will need to change Medicare Advantage plans to continue seeing that doctor. 

Review Past Medical Bills

If you want to go above and beyond with your research for AEP, review your past medical bills. Calculate how much you spent out of pocket, and figure out which type of service you spent the most on. By doing this, you may be able to find a new Medicare Advantage plan that covers that service even better than your current plan.

An easier way to do this is to track your medical spending throughout the year, so you can already have this information prepared for the next year’s AEP. Also, if you find that you’re spending more than you’d like to on out of pocket copays and coinsurance, consider enrolling in a Medigap plan instead. Just remember that you’ll likely have to answer health questions to apply.

When the AEP is Finally Here

Once the AEP finally rolls around, and you’ve done all of your research, you may decide that you’re still happy with your current plan, even with their changes. If so, stick with your same plan. However, it never hurts to shop rates and see if there is a new plan available that may not have been available before.

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Preparing for Medicare’s Annual Election Period