During the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period that takes place every fall, there are a lot of mixed messages aimed at Medicare beneficiaries about the pressing deadline of having to do something. But what exactly is this something that you need to do?
The reality is, what you need to do depends on what Medicare route you are on: Original Medicare with a Medicare Supplement or a Medicare Advantage Plan. While it is pretty clear cut if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan (you can read about that here), it can get more confusing if you have a Medicare Supplement. With a supplement, while there are steps that you need to take during Annual Enrollment, you can also do a lot outside of Annual Enrollment. Below, we will lay out everything you should look into if you have a Medicare Supplement during Annual enrollment or you can watch the video!
Part D Prescription Drug Plan
If you have a Medicare Supplement and want to stick with it, the only step you need to take every fall is to look at your Part D Prescription Drug Plan. Drug plans change every year, meaning the plan that worked best for you last year might not in the upcoming year. Your plan provider will send out the Annual Notice of Change list before Annual Enrollment starts every year. This will list any changes your current plan is going to make for the upcoming year. They must disclose if any of your medications are getting dropped or moving to a more expensive tier. If there are no changes that affect your medications, sometimes it is the best route just to stay with the same prescription drug plan. There is the possibility though that another Part D plan in your area could cover your drugs with fewer restrictions or lower prices, so it is advantageous to look into these plans every year, even if yours is not changing. To look at the drug plans being offered in your area, you can go to Medicare.gov.
If you have a Medicare Supplement, you can change it anytime of the year. To repeat: 365 days a year, your supplement can be changed. You do not have to wait for Annual Enrollment. This is the biggest misconception we hear from our clients. Unlike Part D plans, these plans are not going to change coverage year to year because the benefits offered are standardized. If you have a Plan G, it is always going to provide that same benefits that all Plan G’s provide. What can change is the price. Companies raise their supplement prices every year, but you are allowed to switch to a new company that offers the exact same benefits at a lower price. You do have to answer health questions to make this switch, but there is no penalty for switching plans or companies. Make sure to look at all the companies offering plans in your area, not just one or two. There are usually around 30 – 40 companies in any given area. You can run your own personalized quote without giving any personal information here.
If you have a supplement, you do not need a Medicare Advantage plan, in fact, insurance companies cannot sell you one if you have the other, unless you are scheduling it to start after the other ends. During Annual Enrollment, you do have the option to switch from Original Medicare and your Supplement to a Medicare Advantage plan. When you do this, you stop receiving your benefits from Medicare and start receiving them from a private insurance company. While these plans can be more affordable, they also include networks, co-pays, and do not travel well (read about the pros and cons of a Medicare Advantage plan).
It can get confusing during this time if you have a Medicare Supplement, and you might feel the pressure to make a change or a switch. It is important to be clear about what coverage you currently have. Many people don’t understand if they have a supplement or advantage plan. It is hard to make a change that is best for you if you don’t know what you have. If you want help while going through this process, make sure to contact a broker who represents multiple companies. They can help you explore all your options, not just one or two.
To sum it up, if you have a Medicare Supplement, Annual Enrollment is a time for you to decide if would like to stay on Original Medicare as well as update your drug coverage. Anything outside of this, such as changing your supplement, can be done during the rest of the year.