Medicare Annual Election Period: Why it’s importantby Denise Early on Nov. 14, 2009, under Health
November 15th to December 31st is the Medicare Annual Election period. This is an important time for a number of reasons.
Part D: If you have a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan (that is not part of a Medicare Advantage plan), this is the only time of year when you can change to another plan. If your premium has gone up, you can shop around for a lower-priced plan. Your new plan would take effect on January 1, 2010 and you must stay in that plan for the entire year (unless you move out of the plan’s service area).
The average Part D premium is about $35 per month, so if your plan premium is a lot higher than this, it might be time to shop around. But be sure all of your prescriptions are covered by the plan you are considering and at what co-pay level.
Medicare Advantage: If you want to change your Advantage plan, you can submit an application for a new plan during this period. Your new coverage would begin on January 1, 2010. Be sure all your doctors are in the plan network before you sign any papers. And be sure your prescriptions are covered by the new plan and for what co-pay.
For Medicare Advantage plans, you actually have another opportunity to change plans during January, February, and March. After the end of March, you are locked into your Advantage plan for the rest of the year.
From talking with seniors, it is interesting to see how many different reactions there are to plan changes. Some people are willing to change their doctors if a new plan offers lower co-pays or a lower premium. Most seniors will not switch plans if it requires them to give up their primary doctor or their specialists, because they have ongoing health problems. Some people will not change their Advantage plan because they want to keep their gym membership.
Some folks are shocked by the idea of a $36 premium for their Advantage plan, while others figure it is a small price to pay for the coverage. I talked to a lady in Pinal County who is currently paying $100 for her Medicare Advantage plan. When she saw another plan with a $59 per month premium that includes dental and vision benefits, she thought that was a great deal.
I guess the point of this post is that Medicare beneficiaries have a many choices, even if they are only considering Medicare Advantage plans. Choice is a good thing, but it requires seniors to do some homework so they make an informed decision that will make the transition to a new plan seamless and hassle-free.