The Annual Enrollment Period: Medicare's Shining Beacon of Hope
Since 2004, Medicare has gone through a whirlwind of change due to the health care reformation. These changes can certainly render unsettling for families and especially seniors. It isn’t easy to find comfort amongst the many new terms, new rules, and new decisions. Only a handful feel confident in understanding the information available through the Medicare.gov website, and the Annual Guide to Medicare. If you can bare to get through all of the steep terminology within this information, there are still many questions left unanswered. Most of the population even has trouble differentiating between Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage. If you can’t tell the difference between these options, how do you know you are choosing the right Medicare plan?
Between Medicare, Medigap, Medicaid, and Medicare Advantage, the Medicare process can be extremely overwhelming. The most common decision a senior will make is if they will access Medicare through Medicare Advantage, or Original Medicare with a Medigap supplement plan; but what’s next, and how do you get to that point? Now is the time of year to speak with your doctor and your preferred pharmacist to make sure they are still going to accept your Medicare plan. Medicare Advantage provider networks change every single year. It is also a good idea to see if your prescriptions will still be covered with your current plan.
Medicare beneficiaries are seeing a lot of change, as some insurers will be changing their plan options, and other insurers may be adding new options specifically by county location. Fortunately, Georgia has multiple hospitals, a robust medical community and greater access to care than some nearby states. Unfortunately, the cost of premiums will only continue to rise each year, and the changes to Medicare will only stay constant.
However, there is a shining loop hole amongst all of this stressful change, and it is called the Annual Enrollment Period. Every Fall, seniors have the freedom to review and change their Medicare Part D drug plans, and Medicare Advantage options. This year, the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period runs October 15th through December 7th. In September, all insurance providers unveil the Medicare plans for the upcoming year to certified insurance agents. These plans become available to the general public after October 1st, and are generally posted on the Medicare.gov website.
Before making changes to, or deciding not to make changes to plans, there are very important steps to be addressed. These steps can begin with reviewing each person’s individual list of medications against the drug plans available in their county. Medicare and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the average senior actually wastes $600 per year by not properly shopping for the right Part D drug plan. There are likely 5 to 10 different plans that cover a consumer’s list of drugs, but the cost differences can be staggering. When seniors finally make a purchase decision, they should ask themselves if they’ve truly sought out all of their options, or if they have just chosen the plan that seemed good for the moment.
An insider trick to surpass all of the perplexing and unfamiliar information, is to contact a local insurance broker. Insurance brokers are certified agents who know the insides and outs of typically every plan under the sun. Brokers generally provide honest education and information to help Medicare consumers understand their options. Once changes are made to a Medicare plan during the Annual Enrollment Period, they will become effective on January 1st.
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