This year’s Medicare Open Enrollment in Tucson is….. crazy. Crazy with so many people losing their plan, or losing their doctor from their plan network. With three weeks down and four weeks left in Open Enrollment, here are my observations:
Some people don’t know they are losing their Medicare Advantage plan.
I have talked to some of my clients who say they have not received a letter telling them their plan is being cancelled. Some say they might have tossed the letter by mistake, while others say they are very organized and are sure they did not receive it.
Seniors who have agents/brokers who stay in touch with them have been informed that they need to make a choice about a new plan by December 7th. But even I have not been able to get hold of three of my clients whose plans are being cancelled.
Some people cannot handle the change, or the decision to pick a new plan.
One of my clients asked me to talk to her neighbor who is losing her plan. This lady does not want to change to another company, but her primary care doctor is no longer contracted with Health Net. So she needs to change to a new plan with a new company. I was explaining another plan to her, but she is 80 years old and became distraught over the details. She understood what I was telling her, but she became upset over signing a document that she did not completely understand. I could not blame her, but I could not overcome her anxiety about signing the application for a new plan.
I told her she could think about it and I would see her again – but I don’t know how to help her. I asked if her son, or someone else could help her, but she said no. Maybe that will change as she thinks about it.
Seniors do not seem upset about losing their plan.
Except for the lady described above, just about everyone I have talked to is non-plussed by losing their plan. Perhaps it’s because they have other good choices here in Tucson and their doctors are contracted with those Medicare Advantage plans. The other plans have good co-pays and MOOPs (max-out-of-pocket), but most of my clients expect them to go up in the future. They figure they will have to pay more in the future, but they don’t seem upset over it.
Medicare Supplements are not popular.
I have told my clients that they have the choice to go back to Medicare and get a supplement, but only one person has taken this route. Some people have said the idea of paying $160 or more per month is “not affordable” for them. Plus, they think it’s too complicated to have to also pick a Part D plan – and that adds to their cost.
Medicare Advantage, with co-pays for doctor visits, labs, and hospital stays, is the “normal” in Tucson. These folks haven’t known anything else, so they are not attracted to the idea of going back to Medicare and getting a Medicare supplement.
Is there enough time to see everyone who needs help?
About half of my clients are enrolled in Medicare supplements and they only need help evaluating their Part D plan. I’m advising them by email or over the phone. Their supplement is not changing – except for the premium going up each year. But about half of my clients who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage are affected by plan cancellations and doctor network changes. I will be very busy over the next four weeks meeting with these clients and moving them to another plan.
I know other insurance brokers who have double or triple the number of clients I have – and I don’t know how they are going to get to all of them. A 45-day Medicare Open Enrollment Period in Tucson may be too short for the thousands of people who are losing their Advantage plan or their doctor.
I will be happy when December 8th arrives and the Open Enrollment Period is over. I just hope all the seniors in Tucson (and younger, disabled Medicare beneficiaries) are happy too. I hope there are not too many shocked and dismayed people who discover in January that they are back on Medicare and cannot get other coverage.