Let’s open with the most important point: The Open Enrollment Period (OEP) is also known as Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). It starts October 15, 2019 and runs through December 7, 2019. If you make a change, it will take effect January 1, 2020.
Many people don’t understand and then miss this important deadline, and with it the opportunity to make changes to their Medicare coverage. It’s difficult to keep track of all the dates, and even to understand which deadlines affect your family.
Medicare decisions are not just made once in a lifetime.
If you are a Medicare beneficiary, you need to review your coverage every year. The AEP is the best time to do that. It’s a great opportunity to look over your past year’s records, talk to your doctor, review pricing changes to the plans, and make a choice about which plan will serve you best in 2020.
It’s important to understand which changes are allowed during the Annual Enrollment Period. Despite what the name might suggest, this period does not apply to your Medigap (Medicare Supplement) plans. The AEP is only for changes to Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Medicare Part D (prescription drug) coverage. During AEP:
- Anyone who has Parts A or B can join or drop a Part D plan.
- Anyone with Original Medicare (Parts A & B) can switch to a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C).
- Anyone with Part C can drop it and switch back to Parts A & B.
- Anyone with Part C can change to another Part C plan.
- Anyone with a Part D prescription drug plan can change to another Part D plan.
Why should you pay attention?
Prescription drug costs can make up a significant part of a family’s budget. This is when you can save lots of money. Know if your plan is changing or if your prescriptions are changing. If your plan is making changes that are not good for you, find a better plan and make the change during the AEP. Switch to a plan that offers the best coverage for you.
Review your current Part D plan formulary. In 2020, will it include your prescriptions at the same cost? Ask your doctor about recent or upcoming changes to your prescription drug regimen. These will affect your co-pays and coinsurance. Of course, it’s impossible to predict exactly what will happen with your medication needs in 2020. However, you should consider whatever information is available right now to make the best choice for you.
Get the most out of your 2020 Medicare coverage in 5 steps.
Step 1, research available Medicare Part D coverage options. Start at the Medicare Plan Finder at www.medicare.gov. Alternatively, you could call 1-800-Medicare and ask a representative to help you compare plans.
Step 2, look at different pharmacies. Most people like the comfort and the convenience of dealing with a familiar face and a familiar process at their usual pharmacy. However, drug companies negotiate discounts with certain pharmacy chains. A bit of research can save you money!
Step 3, look into prescription restrictions by plan. In order to do this effectively, you will need a complete list of your current medications and dosage. Enter this information into the www.medicare.gov forms. Different Medicare Part D plans place different restrictions on certain prescriptions. For example, some plans may require you to try a less expensive medication before “graduating” to a more expensive drug. Others may require your doctor to get authorization from the plan before prescribing certain meds. These small details can make a big difference in your experience with a plan!
Step 4, check plan reviews and ratings! Medicare rates plans based on several criteria including customer service, member complaints, drug pricing, and patient safety. This system can help you make your final choice. However, be careful not to make it your only reason to choose or turn down a plan. Medicare Part D is about finding the right fit for you, not choosing a five-star rating and stopping there.
Step 5, estimate and compare your total cost of participating in a plan for the next year, not just the premium. Focusing on just the premium can result in overlooking other important components of your overall medical care budget, such as co-pays and co-insurance.
Does that sound like a fair amount of work?
It certainly is. Which is why so many Medicare subscribers skip this review, and potentially miss out on saving thousands of dollars every single year.
The good news is that online resources can save you a lot of legwork. Do your research. Talk to your doctor. Ask for advice at your pharmacy (although the pharmacist’s answer may be biased based on which companies have negotiated discount deals there). A few hours now can save you significant money and headaches later.