Medicare Annual Election Period Ends – Medigap Enrollment Still Open

The Medicare annual election period ended December 7. This is the time of year that you can change Medicare Part D plans or Medicare Advantage plans, if you are on one of those plans in place of traditional Medicare.Although the AEP is over, you can still make any changes you want to make to your Medigap coverage. Medigap plans do not have an annual enrollment period – you can change plans at any time for any reason, contrary to popular misconception.

If you are on a Medicare Advantage plan, you are locked in to that plan for the year now, unless you disenroll during the short Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP), which runs January 1 through February 14. If you do choose to disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan during this period, you can do so and return to “regular” Medicare A & B and pick up a Medigap plan to fill in the ‘gaps’ in Medicare.

For those on Medigap plans already, it is advisable to compare your Medigap plan to other options on an annual or bi-annual basis. With Medigap plans, rates change annually in many cases. While coverage does not change from year to year, it can make sense to “shop” your rate to make sure you are still getting a good deal.

Fortunately, this is very easy to do when it comes to Medigap plans, as the plans are Federally-standardized. In other words, if you have a Plan F now, you can “shop” other Plan F’s on the basis of rate, with the security that the coverage itself is going to be the same. Additionally, the plans all work in the same way – i.e. you can use them anywhere that takes Medicare, and claims are processed automatically through the Medicare “crossover” system.

If you have not compared your Medigap rates against other options in the last year or more, it is advisable to do so now. Also, if you have a Plan F, now is the time to consider Plan G. Plan G is a better “deal” in almost all cases and will provide annual savings and more rate stability.

If you have questions or want to compare your current rate against what is available, you can request a comparison on our Medicare-Supplement.US website or call us at 877.506.3378.

Medicare Enrollment Period – What Changes Can You Make?

The Annual Election Period (AEP), or Medicare Enrollment Period, as it sometimes called, is the period of time during which some changes can be made to your Medicare plan coverages. There are many misconceptions about this period and what changes you can make during it. It is important to understand how this period works and exactly what steps you need to take during this period to ensure continued quality Medicare plan coverage.

Original Medicare – Parts A & B
If you are already on Medicare Parts A & B, you do NOT need to do anything during this period to continue to have Medicare coverage. If, however, you do not have Medicare Part B yet, you can sign up at this time for it to take effect on 1/1/13. This is useful if you are leaving, or losing, employer group coverage.

Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D is probably the most important thing to understand, as it relates to the Medicare enrollment period. This is the only time of year that you can change your Part D prescription drug plan. Part D plans do change each year, so it is essential to know how your plan is changing and make sure it is still the most advisable choice for you. You will receive a plan notice of change around October 1 – this will detail how your plan is changing for the next year. Often, plan premiums, deductibles, co-pays, tier structures, etc. will all change on a plan from year to year. You can compare all of the plan options to make sure yours is still the best for your current needs by using an independent brokerage (like Medicare-Supplement.us!) or by going to the Medicare website (www.medicare.gov). Either way will allow you to choose a plan based on your current medication needs.

Medicare Supplements (Medigap)
Contrary to popular misconception, you can actually change Medigap plans at any time of the year. The end of year period is a good time to do it, particularly if your plan rates have changed during the year. However, you can do it at any time. You can enroll in, disenroll from, or change your plan to another option. Because these plans are Federally-standardized, coverage is the same with every plan. For example, a Plan F with one company is the exact same as a Plan F with another company. So, if you can find a lower-priced option for the plan you have, and are able to change, switching plans is a wise thing to do to reduce your premium costs.

Medicare Advantage
Medicare Advantage is the type of plan that replaces Medicare – basically, it is a privatized version of Medicare. The Annual Election Period (October 15-December 7) is the only time of year that you can make changes to this plan (unless you fall in a special election period circumstance – i.e. losing other coverage, moving out of your plan’s area, etc.). So, if this is the type of plan you have chosen, it is wise to make any changes to it at this time. You can compare the other options and make changes as necessary.

If you have any questions about the Medicare enrollment period, please contact us at Medicare-Supplement.US or call us at 877.506.3378. Medicare-Supplement.US is an independent Medicare insurance brokerage that can assist you with comparing the plan options and choosing a suitable plan.

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period Myth

Each year the myth grows stronger – the myth about Medicare’s annual enrollment period applying to Medicare Supplement plans. Most people, for one of several reasons that we will discuss later, believe that you can only change Medicare Supplement plans at a certain time of the year. Moreover, most believe that, during this time period, you can change without medical underwriting of any kind (i.e. no health questions). We intend to do our part, however small, to eliminate this incorrect thinking.

Put simply, you can change Medicare Supplement plans at any time of the year. There are no annual enrollment period that you must adhere to. However, when you do change, no matter what time of year it is, you do have to “qualify” medically in most situations. The exceptions to this are if you turning 65 or just going on Medicare, losing some other type of coverage, or moving out of your plan’s service area.

There are several significant factors that exacerbate this myth. The first and foremost factor is that there IS an annual enrollment period for some Medicare plans, including the Part D plans that are often paired with Medicare Supplement coverage. Also, Medicare replacement plans called Medicare Advantage plans have this same annual enrollment period. For these plans, you can only change, cancel or enroll in a plan during the AEP (Annual Election Period), which runs October 15 to December 7 each year.

The other related factor that causes this misconception is the glut of advertising associated with the aforementioned plans. These plans advertise leading up to and during the annual enrollment period, and this period is often referred to as the Medicare enrollment period. This leads many people to the conclusion that you can only change all types of Medicare coverage during this period.

Now, you certainly CAN change your Medicare Supplement during this end of year time period, but that is not the NOLY time that you can change your plan. It may, however, be a convenient time to re-evaluate your options since many people are re-evaluating their Part D Rx plans at this same time.

Comparing Medicare supplement plans is very easy to do. Since the plans are standardized and there are no restrictions on when you sign up for a plan, you can do this all online and at any time. If you want to compare your supplement plan options, give us a call at 877.506.3378 or contact us online at Medicare-Supplement.US.