The Medicare Open Enrollment window for January 2018 effective dates has begun. This window runs from October 15th through December 7th. All changes to your Medicare Advantage and/or Prescription Drug Part D coverage will take affect January 1, 2018.
Should you miss the Annual Election Period (AEP) open enrollment window, it may be difficult or impossible to make changes until this time next year. It’s important to review your coverage to make sure your benefits, costs, copays and network availability are still in-line with your needs for 2018.
What Are My Options During The Medicare Open Enrollment Window?
There are several changes you can make to your Medicare coverage during the AEP window. You can:
- Switch to a new Part D prescription drug plan
- Enroll in a new Medicare Advantage Plan
- Disenroll from a Medicare Advantage Plan and return to Original Medicare
- Comparison shop for lower rates and/or better benefits
As you probably know, Medicare is full or rules and timelines. It’s usually a good idea to talk with a knowledgeable agent this time of year. Changing Medicare Advantage plans or enrolling into (or out of) an Advantage plan for the first time can be tricky. You’ll want to make sure you follow the Medicare guidelines so as not to incur penalties and/or delays.
Lowest Priced Part D Prescription Drug Plan For 2018
One of the most common moves is finding new Part D drug coverage. Medicare drug plans can change dramatically year over year. You don’t want to assume that your premiums, copays and deductibles will be the same. They won’t.
One of the least expensive Part D plans for 2018 will again be the Humana Walmart plan. It will cost around $18 a month in most parts of the country. The deductible will be $405 for 2018, but the deductible does not apply to Tier 1 and Tier 2 drugs. And like years past, many generic drugs will have low or no copays when filled at Walmart or through mail order.
Other popular low cost plans will be offered from Envision Rx, Silverscript, Aetna and United Healthcare. But remember that you are not shopping on premiums alone. Copays are the biggest factor in determining your overall best value for 2018. Many of the low cost plans mentioned above will have preferred pharmacies where your rx costs will be the lowest. Switching pharmacies can also save significant money through the course of the year.
Switching Medicare Advantage Plans During AEP
Medicare Advantage plans can and will change year over year. Many will adjust their premiums, drug coverage costs, health benefits and networks. A plan can have a $0 premium one year and $20-50 the next. It’s wise to review all of your options each year – especially if you experienced higher than expected out of pocket costs in 2017.
We help our clients shop for new Medicare Advantage coverage each year. If you are unhappy with your plan for any reason, then the Open Enrollment window is the best (and sometimes only) time to make changes.
We see more competition and better coverage from Medicare Advantage plans each year. In some counties, you might have nearly 40 plans to choose from. It’s wise to compare them all with an agent to see if one has lower prescription costs and/or better access to the doctors and hospitals you prefer.
Leave Medicare Advantage And Return To Medicare
This change can be a little tricky. There are several factors that will help determine your best course of action. Most people who drop a Medicare Advantage plan will also want to purchase a Medicare supplement – and that’s the tricky part.
In many cases, Medicare supplement carriers will require medical underwriting if you’ve been in an Advantage plan longer than 1 year. This means you can be turned down. Your acceptance can depend on how long you’ve had your Medicare Advantage plan and whether or not you have ongoing health issues.
The good news is you should have no trouble enrolling in a Part D drug plan when making this change. In almost all cases, those can be purchased on a guaranteed acceptance basis.
We can help you understand what to expect when dis-enrolling from a Medicare Advantage plan and returning to Original Medicare. If you have some health issues, there may be some Medicare supplement providers who will accept you – and others who won’t. We can help find the companies that may make this transition easier.
What About Changing Medicare Supplement Insurance?
Unless you live in certain states like California and Missouri, there is no open enrollment window for Medicare supplement coverage. If you want to change Medigap plans, in most cases you will need to submit to medical underwriting – so you can be turned down.
In other words, you can change Medicare supplements any time you want so long as you are able to pass medical underwriting. A lot of consumers wait until AEP to shop for better rates on their Medicare supplement coverage, but the reality is that this process can be done throughout the year. We encourage our clients to call us year round to see if they can medically qualify for lower rates.
Applying for a new Medicare supplement during Open Enrollment does not guarantee acceptance like it does with Medicare Advantage and Part D plans. It’s best to shop while you are in good health and/or when you get a rate increase.
Our Independent Medicare Focused Insurance Agency
We offer Medicare supplement, Advantage and Part D insurance policies direct from several carriers all across the country. There are no extra fees whatsoever to use our services. Contact us today to discuss your best Medicare options for 2018.