December 7 is your last day to take advantage of the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which began on October 15. AEP is the only time existing beneficiaries can make a variety of changes to their Medicare coverage. If you are unhappy with your Medicare Advantage (MA) plan and want a new one, or if you were hoping to sign up for an MA plan, December 7 is your last chance. The same is true if you want to change Medicare Part D plans.
If you miss AEP and don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP), you’ll have to wait until next year to make those changes.
What Can You Do During Medicare Annual Enrollment?
The AEP allows beneficiaries to:
- Join or leave a Part D prescription drug plan
- Switch to a new Part D plan
- Change from Original Medicare (Parts A and B) to a Medicare Advantage plan
- Switch from one MA plan to another
- Leave your MA plan to move back to Original Medicare
The only thing you cannot do during Annual Enrollment is enroll in Medicare for the first time. If you qualify for your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), you may sign up under that umbrella. If you missed your IEP and do not qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, you must wait until the Medicare Open Enrollment Period. This lasts from January 1 through March 31, with coverage beginning on July 1.
If you have any questions about the AEP, please call us toll-free at 855-350-8101. One of our licensed agents can help guide you through the process.
What Happens If You Miss Annual Enrollment?
If you miss AEP, you don’t lose your existing coverage. It simply rolls over to the next year.
You may qualify for an SEP. If so, you can make all of the changes you’d make during the Annual Enrollment Period. For example, if you waited to sign up for Medicare due to existing coverage through your or your spouse’s employer, you qualify for an SEP for up to eight months after either the coverage or the employment ends (whichever comes first).
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore AEP
Beneficiaries who are happy with their coverage often ignore the AEP. As we’ve said before, this is a mistake. So many changes may occur to your existing coverage from year to year. Medicare Prescription Drug plans add and drop drugs from their formularies. Providers leave and join networks. Premiums and copays go up and down. And Medicare doesn’t allow beneficiaries to make changes outside of AEP simply because they failed to read their plan’s Annual Notice of Change (ANOC). If your provider no longer accepts your MA plan, or your prescriptions are no longer covered by your Part D plan, you either pay out-of-pocket for services or change providers and/or prescriptions.
Remember: There Are Changes to Other Plans, Too
Your plan isn’t the only one changing. All plans experience the same types of changes to coverage and costs. That means there may be a plan that meets your needs better than what you currently have.
There are also quite a few changes expected for Medicare as a whole in 2019. For example, most counties are getting at least five new Medicare Advantage plan options. MA premiums are also projected to decrease by around $5 per month, with Part D premiums dropping slightly as well.
Medicare also continues to phase out cost plans. If yours is one of them and you fail to act during AEP, you’re automatically enrolled in whatever default the plan chose (either an MA plan or Original Medicare, details vary by plan).
How a Medicare Broker Can Help
The main reason beneficiaries fail to act during AEP comes down to feeling overwhelmed by the prospect. Reviewing your healthcare needs and seeing how well your current coverage meets them can be confusing enough. Throw in comparing the various aspects of other plans and it can feel like a very daunting task. One comment we hear most often is how much simpler customers find it working with an expert. And since Medicare Solutions’ brokers work with numerous providers, they’re able to compare all of those offerings to help customers find the best plan available.
We hope you’ll use the AEP as an opportunity to take a more active role in your healthcare. The goal is simple: Get the best coverage available at the best price.