You’ve probably heard of the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). But what is it? It must be important because you’re getting a whole lot of junk mail about it. There’s a never-ending parade of fading TV stars and retired pro athletes selling some kind of Medicare plan during every commercial break. Clearly, this Annual Enrollment Period is important to somebody. The question is, why should it be important for you?
what is the Annual Enrollment Period?
The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period takes place from October 15 to December 7 each year. It is most crucial for people who already have Medicare. But here’s why it matters to you. Your healthcare needs change from year to year, so do Medicare plans and what they cover. The Annual Enrollment Period is when you can adjust to those changes, maintaining your coverage and financial security year after year. So while you’re choosing your first Medicare plan, be aware that you will have the opportunity to make changes. Thanks to the Annual Enrollment Period, you’re not stuck with the same plan forever.
Medicare Plan Basics.
Before we get into what you can do during the Annual Enrollment Period, here’s a quick breakdown of the types of Medicare plans.
Put simply, Original Medicare refers to Medicare Part A and Part B. Part A covers hospital care and services, while Medicare Part B covers physician services and other outpatient treatments.
Also known as Medicare Part C, Medicare Advantage is an “all in one” alternative to Original Medicare. This includes coverage from Medicare-approved private insurance companies. Medicare Advantage offers all the services covered under Part A and Part B and may also include Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, as well as extra benefits like dental and vision care.
Prescription Drug Plans.
Prescription Drug Plans, also known as Medicare Part D, are optional and offered to everyone with Medicare. You can get a prescription drug plan as a separate plan or bundled with a Medicare Advantage Plan.
Now, here’s what you can do during the Annual Enrollment Period:
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare.
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another.
- Enroll in a Part D Prescription Drug Plan.
- Switch from one Part D Prescription Drug Plan to another.
- Leave a Part D Prescription Drug Plan.
Why shopping for plans during the Annual Enrollment Period is so important.
Even if you’re new to Medicare, it’s never too early to understand the importance of reviewing your options for Medicare plans every year. Why is it so important? Because things change.
Every year, you will receive an Annual Notice of Change letter listing any changes to your Medicare plan. Your coverage can change. Your premiums may increase. One or more of your doctors may no longer be in-network for your Medicare Advantage Plan. Your prescription drug plan may no longer cover the medications you need. You may have an opportunity to save money while keeping the same coverage. Or your healthcare needs may have changed, requiring you to seek better coverage for a new condition.
The Annual Enrollment Period is your best opportunity to explore your Medicare plan options and see if there’s a better plan for your specific needs. Unfortunately, too many of those eligible for Medicare don’t shop around for Medicare plans, missing out on potential savings.
What the Annual Enrollment Period isn’t.
Let’s clarify one thing. This is not designed to be the first time you enroll in Medicare. There is already an enrollment period for that with an equally catchy name. The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is a 7-month period that starts three months before you turn 65 or first become eligible for Medicare Parts A & B and ends three months after.
You may have heard of another kind of Medicare coverage called Medicare Supplement Insurance or Medigap. Medicare Supplement Insurance works alongside Medicare Parts A and B and helps pay your portion of medical expenses like copays, deductibles, and coinsurance. These policies are offered by private insurance companies to supplement Original Medicare coverage. Some Medicare Supplement Insurance policies also cover care when you travel outside the U.S.
It’s important to know that the best time to get a Medigap policy is during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period (OEP). Your Open Enrollment Period starts when your Medicare Part B coverage goes into effect and ends six months later. If you apply for Medigap after your Open Enrollment Period, your premiums may increase, or you may be denied Medigap coverage completely because of your health status.
Are you feeling a little overwhelmed?
We are excited to share that we have partnered with Healthpilot! Healthpilot is a free white glove service that makes finding the right Medicare plan and having the right plan for your needs every year a lot easier. If you find Medicare and the Annual Enrollment Period a little confusing (and who doesn’t?), we can make Medicare easier right now with Healthpilot.
Call our office at (615) 823-2233 for more information.
Investment advice offered through Stratos Wealth Advisors, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Stratos Wealth Advisors, LLC and Flagship Financial Advisors are separate entities. Please remember that past performance is no guarantee of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by Flagship Financial Advisors, or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this commentary will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this commentary serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Flagship Financial Advisors.