What is the Medi­care An­nual Elec­tion Pe­riod

Record Observer - - Senior Satellite - By MIKE ZIM­MER

The Medi­care An­nual Elec­tion Pe­riod is nearly upon us again. What you need to know about this time of the year.

The Medi­care An­nual Elec­tion Pe­riod, also known as the An­nual En­roll­ment Pe­riod or AEP, runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. While there are other en­roll­ment pe­ri­ods dur­ing the year for the many parts of Medi­care, this may be one of the only times that ben­e­fi­cia­ries have the abil­ity to make any changes to their Medi­care Ad­van­tage (MA) and/ or Medi­care Part D cov­er­age. Any Medi­care cov­er­age change made dur­ing this time will be in ef­fect for the fol­low­ing cal­en­dar year.

Medi­care An­nual Elec­tion Pe­riod Changes

Dur­ing the Medi­care An­nual Elec­tion Pe­riod, ben­e­fi­cia­ries can switch from gov­ern­ment-of­fered Orig­i­nal Medi­care cov­er­age (Part A and Part B) to a Medi­care Ad­van­tage (MA) plan, or change from their cur­rently en­rolled MA plan back to Orig­i­nal Medi­care.

In ad­di­tion to switch­ing from Orig­i­nal Medi­care to an MA plan, the AEP al­lows Medi­care ben­e­fi­cia­ries to change from one Medi­care Ad­van­tage plan to an­other. This in­cludes switch­ing from a Medi­care Ad­van­tage plan that does not in­clude pre­scrip­tion drug cov­er­age to a Medi­care Ad­van­tage Pre­scrip­tion Drug (MAPD) plan. Like­wise, a ben­e­fi­ciary may switch from an MAPD to a reg­u­lar MA plan.

Dur­ing the AEP, a ben­e­fi­ciary may also en­roll in a stand-alone Medi­care Pre­scrip­tion Drug Plan (PDP) to go with their Orig­i­nal Medi­care or Medi­care Sup­ple­ment cov­er­age. If they al­ready have pre­scrip­tion cov­er­age, they may switch from one plan to an­other. Al­ter­nately, they may com­pletely drop their pre­scrip­tion cov­er­age dur­ing the AEP.

Be­fore En­rolling dur­ing the Medi­care An­nual Elec­tion Pe­riod

Re­mem­ber, Medi­care Ad­van­tage and Medi­care Part D plan de­tails and costs can change ev­ery year. Keep track of th­ese de­tails and com­pare your cur­rent plan against oth­ers on an an­nual ba­sis in or­der to avoid un­nec­es­sary spend­ing. You should re­ceive an An­nual No­tice of Change packet from your cur­rent plan provider each year so you un­der­stand ex­actly what’s chang­ing.

You should also con­sider mak­ing a list of all of your pre­scrip­tion drug med­i­ca­tions. Hav­ing this in­for­ma­tion on hand will make it eas­ier when re­search­ing plans or speak­ing to a li­censed agent about plan en­roll­ment. If you do not take any med­i­ca­tions and you do not have cred­itable pre­scrip­tion drug cov­er­age, you may want to con­sider en­rolling in a Medi­care Part D plan any­way to avoid un­nec­es­sary Part D en­roll­ment penal­ties in the fu­ture.

The Medi­care An­nual Elec­tion Pe­riod is a good time for you to reeval­u­ate your cov­er­age. You want to make sure that you will con­tinue to be en­rolled in the best plan for your needs in the com­ing year.

Other Medi­care En­roll­ment Pe­ri­ods

If you miss the AEP, there are some ad­di­tional op­tions but they are lim­ited. First there is an en­roll­ment pe­riod that lasts from Jan­uary 1 to Fe­bru­ary 14 of the fol­low­ing year called the Medi­care Ad­van­tage Disen­roll­ment Pe­riod (MADP). Dur­ing this time, ben­e­fi­cia­ries may switch out of a Medi­care Ad­van­tage plan and rev­ert back to Orig­i­nal Medi­care. They can­not leave a Medi­care Ad­van­tage plan in fa­vor of join­ing an­other pri­vate plan dur­ing this pe­riod. If they drop an MA plan with drug cov­er­age, they may then be able to pick up a stand-alone Medi­care Pre­scrip­tion Drug Plan for med­i­ca­tion cov­er­age.

Ben­e­fi­cia­ries may also qual­ify to join a Medi­care Ad­van­tage plan dur­ing a Spe­cial Elec­tion Pe­riod (SEP). Some of the cir­cum­stances that might war­rant an SEP in­clude, but are not lim­ited to:

Any time you move to a new cov­er­age area

If you suf­fer from cer­tain chronic med­i­cal con­di­tions

If you are en­rolled in the Ex­tra Help from the gov­ern­ment or qual­ify for this pro­gram

If you are en­rolled in Med­i­caid

Mike Zim­mer is Pres­i­dent of Bay State In­sur­ance Agency Ltd. in Cen­tre­ville. He is avail­able to an­swer your ques­tions or speak to your groups re­gard­ing Medi­care, Medi­care Ad­van­tage, Medi­care Sup­ple­ments and Medi­care Part D (Pre­scrip­tion Plans). He may be reached at 410-758-1680.

MIKE ZIM­MER

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