Medicare’s Open Enrollment Starts Oct 15th ~ Check Your Coverage Options & Your Mail

Medicare’s Open Enrollment Starts Oct 15th ~ Check Your Coverage Options & Your Mail

Medicare’s annual fall Open Enrollment is almost here! Running from October 15 – December 7, this is an important time to review your coverage and make any necessary changes for your coverage going forward as of January 1, 2019. During the open enrollment, you can join or switch Medicare Advantage (MA) plans and Part D prescription drug plans (PDPs), or return to Original Medicare with all changes effective January 1. Because MA and Part D plans can change their benefits, increase costs, change provider networks or alter their drug formularies, etc each year, reviewing the upcoming changes and your other options are critical for making sure you have the health coverage that best suits your needs in the new year.

How do I find out about Medicare plan changes for 2019?

This is where it’s important to check your mail. If you’re in an MA plan and/or Part D plan, your plan will mail you your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC). This 10+ page document details all the changes in benefits, costs, formularies, etc effective as of January 1, 2019. These notices should have been received by September 30. If not, contact your plan.

Until this fall, plans were also required to mail you your Evidence of Coverage (EOC), a 140+ page document that contains all the details of  your covered benefits and costs. Starting now in 2018, plans are NOT required to mail the EOC, and instead are required to have it posted on their website by October 15. If you would like a hard copy mailed to you, you can call your plan to make that request.

Plans are now also required to mail a Notification of Electronic Materials to all plan enrollees. The notice explains how to get a hard copy of all the materials available on their website, such as the EOC, drug formularies and provider directories. It provides the plan’s website and specific phone numbers for the requested information.

If you are in a plan that is not renewing its Medicare contracts for 2019, you should have received a non-renewal notice as of October 2. If not, call your plan. You will need to find new coverage for 2019 and you have certain rights. See our section, When Medicare Advantage Plans Terminate Coverage, for more information.

If you have Original Medicare, or are interested in returning to Original Medicare, you can learn about the 2019 costs through your Medicare & You 2019 handbook. These were mailed in late September. If you don’t receive it by mid-October, you can call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 to order another one, view the information on Medicare.gov, or visit our Medicare Basics section after Oct 15 when we have the info updated with 2019 figures.

This is a lot of information to review, AND other Medicare health plans and drug plans in your area can also send you marketing materials after October 1. If you’d like assistance in navigating all this information and the health coverage changes for 2019, call your local Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP). They provide free, individual and unbiased assistance, and free educational presentations on Medicare changes. Call your local HICAP for the time and locations in your area. And California Health Advocates is available as well to provide Medicare updates trainings.

You can also reference the Guide to consumer mailings from CMS, Social Security and plans in 2018/2019 and Medicare.gov for more details on these and other mailings.

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.