Can you believe it’s almost that time of year again? Medicare’s Open Enrollment (also known as the Annual Election Period) is just around the corner and it’s time to get ready. From October 15 through December 7, Medicare’s Open Enrollment is main time each year you can make a change to your Medicare coverage. You can enroll into or change your Medicare Advantage plan and/or Part D coverage, and/or return to Original Medicare, and any plan changes you make during the AEP are effective January 1.
Even if you’re currently happy with your coverage, it could look very different in 2022. That’s because each year, Medicare health plans and Part D prescription drug plans can change their premiums, deductibles, cost-sharing and some benefits, provider groups they contract with, or discontinue their coverage altogether. It’s important to be aware of how your plan may change, and prepare accordingly.
One place to start, if you’re in a Medicare Advantage and/or Part D plan, is to review your plan’s Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) that explains its changes for 2022. Your plan should have sent this to you by September 30. For example, the Annual Notice of Change would include information such as your premium and copayment, if your plan’s provider network will change, and/or a list of drugs (called a formulary) that will be covered. Again, even if you like your current plan, review your plan’s changes for 2022 and compare other options to determine which 2022 plans have the coverage that best meets your needs.
Here are some tips to prepare for the upcoming AEP, as outlined in our partners at Center for Medicare Advocacy’s recent article:
- Be ready with a list of all your health care conditions, prescription needs, and desired/necessary providers when you review your options.
- Make a note of any changes to income that might help you qualify for extra help with drug costs or Medicare co-pays.
- Watch your email for important notices from Medicare and Social Security. Read them carefully to be sure they are legitimate notices, and not private plan marketing junk mail.
- Review the 2022 Medicare & You handbook. The Handbook was posted online today (9/9/2021) in English, Spanish and a new Chinese version, with translations in Vietnamese and Korean coming in early October.
- If you are considering private plans for your coverage, rather than the universally accepted traditional Medicare program, be sure to review plan options on the Medicare Plan Finder.
- Finally, there is help available to navigate these decisions from your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Find contact information for your SHIP program at https://www.shiphelp.org/ (In CA known as HICAP – the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program, at (800) 434-0222.)
Watch for Fraud and Marketing Misconduct
Also, make sure to watch for fraud and marketing misconduct during the this time of year. Keep these simple do’s and don’ts in mind. MA plans and their agents and insurance brokers:
- CANNOT MISREPRESENT self to the beneficiary
- CANNOT conduct marketing at educational events (as of this year, however, they can go right into a marketing event after completing an educational event)
- CANNOT provide meals at marketing/sales events
- CANNOT offer “free” services/items greater than $15 or $75 for year
- CANNOT “camp outs” in medical provider offices
- CANNOT solicit “door to door” (includes putting flyers on doors)
- CANNOT approach beneficiaries in common areas (parking lots, streets, sidewalks, lobbies, hallways, etc.)
- CANNOT send unsolicited texts or make unsolicited calls
If you come across any suspected fraud, please report it to our California Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 1-855-613-7080. For more information on what plans and insurance agents can and cannot do in terms of marketing, see our recent webinar: Protecting Clients from Improper Medicare Marketing ~ What Advocates Need to Know.