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What You Need to Know About the Medicare Annual Election Period, Which Began October 15

Medicare is not an easy program to understand. With the Annual Election Period (AEP) underway as of October 15, many seniors have questions about what they should do to adjust their plans, to ensure they receive the best coverage for their particular situation.

But do enough Medicare recipients understand how making adjustments could benefit them? The numbers suggest they don’t.

More than three-quarters stayed on the same Medicare Advantage plan from 2013 to 2014, according to a study from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. This raises concerns that not enough people understand the information being given to them about new plans or that they simply lack the tools to make a switch.

Clearing up misconceptions about the election period could encourage more people to change to plans that offer them better benefits. Here are three things you need to understand as AEP continues.

1. You Can’t Change Your Plan Anytime You Want To

The October 15 to December 7 window is the ONLY time the entire year when you can tinker with your plan, unless you are a first-time enrollee — then you get from three months before to three months after your 65th birthday to enroll. This is called your Initial Election Period (IEP), and it obviously differs for everyone.

After that, however, all Medicare beneficiaries are in the same boat. Plus, your plan adjustment opportunities may be limited by what you have now. For example, if you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may not be able to switch to Medigap unless you meet certain qualifying conditions.

You can also switch plans if you qualify for a Special Election Period, such as moving to an area your current plan does not service or becoming eligible for a low-income subsidy plan.

2. You Will Have to Answer Questions to Receive a Medigap Insurance Policy

While you can change your plan during the Annual Election Period, there are restrictions. For instance, you can’t hold both a Medicare Advantage and a Medicare Supplement plan. But you can switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare.

For those who want a Supplement policy during the AEP, you will be subject to questions before getting approved — and you may not earn approval if you are not in good health.

3. Changing Plans Is Worth the Effort

While some may think it’s a hassle to take the time to switch plans, the process actually doesn’t take up that much time. And the advantages you receive make this undertaking a smart investment of your time. Different plans can vary in terms of:

  • Out-of-pocket costs

  • Premiums

  • Provider networks

  • Prescription drug benefits

Not sure if you have alternatives? You may not know the full story. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services points out more than 80 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have the option of at least 10 plans.

Does all this sound confusing? It’s a lot to wrap your head around. To get straightforward answers to your questions, reach out to Jay to receive the guidance you need during the AEP.

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