What Is Annual Enrollment Period and Why You Should Prepare

Medicare primary insurance coverage plans automatically renew at the beginning of the year, unless you make a change. However, even if you don’t make any changes, you may not get the exact same benefits. Insurance companies refine and review plan benefits yearly. Instead of just letting your plan automatically renew, it’s important to make sure that your plan still meets your needs. During the open enrollment period every year from October 15 to December 7, you are able to make changes to your plan if you want to. There are different ways to prepare in order to make sure that you are getting the coverage you need.

The annual enrollment period allows you to do a few changes. You are able to change Part C or Part D plans and go from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan or the other way around. You are also able to change a Medigap plan or other policies you have such as hearing, vision, or dental, even though you are able to change these plans year round. You may want to avoid making changes to those plans during this busy time of the year since insurance companies could take a bit longer to finalize the policy. However, the option is there if you need to change it.

Start Planning Early

Even though the period lasts about two months, it’s still a good idea to make changes earlier rather than later and make sure you do your research and get your questions answered. Agencies can book up quickly during this time so you don’t want to miss an opportunity to review the plan and save.

Check the Plan for Cost and Coverage Changes

Plans may change in cost or coverage details every year. You need to understand the changes when making choices during open enrollment. The changes that can happen include giving you new benefits or removing previously offered benefits, there can be both increases or decreases in various costs, and a changing list of covered drugs. Plans will give you an Annual Notice of Changes to explain the cost and coverage changes. These letters are usually given in September so it’s important to read it and talk to your plan provider if you have questions.

Look at the Medicare & You Handbook

This handbook is the official handbook that explains cost, coverage, enrollment, and more and it’s updated every year. This handbook is useful to find new information and changes in store for the new year. If there are policy or rule changes that affect coverage, you should stay up to date.

Evaluate Your Health Care Needs

Your needs may have changed over the year and you may need different or new health care services in the future. While you aren’t able to exactly predict the future, it’s important to think about any potential or known health care needs. When choosing a plan during this period, think about a new diagnosis or health concern, planned surgeries or other procedures, new doctors you need or want to see, any new prescriptions that have been recommended and prescribed by your doctor, travel plans and health care options away home, and changes in your budget that can affect you paying for health care. Not only should you evaluate your current plan for your health needs, but also see what do you like or don’t like about your current plan. Having this list can be helpful to review with an agent so you can find a plan that is better suited to your needs.

Check to See if the Plan Meets Your Needs

Now that you have checked what your health care needs are, you need to make sure that your plan meets your needs. Look at plan changes, review what your plan covers, and see if the health care needs you have are going to be met. Start by looking at your current plan and see how it’s going to work for the year. If your current plan is fine and is the right fit then you don’t need to do anything during this period. You are able to stay on the plan if you continue to pay the plan premiums.

Shopping Around for a Plan

If your current plan doesn’t suit your needs then you will need to shop around for a new one. Even if you think your current plan is going to suit your needs, you may still want to shop around to see if you are able to find a plan that gives you lower costs or better benefits. The new plan details are released on October 1st and insurance companies are competing for your business so you should feel free to explore your options every year. Check with a licensed Medicare insurance agent in NJ if you have any questions about your current plans or other options.