New Medicare Annual Election Period: October 15 – December 7

October 15th through December 7th are the new dates for the Annual Election Period (AEP) for Medicare beneficiaries. For people already enrolled in Medicare, this is the period when they can change their Part D drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan. If they are not yet enrolled in a Part D plan or a Medicare Advantage plan, this is the only time of year for people to enroll (unless they qualify for a special enrollment period).

In previous years, the AEP ran from November 15th to December 31st, so the new AEP is one month earlier this year.  This means that people enrolled in Part D or Medicare Advantage plans can expect to receive their Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) by the end of September.  The ANOC lets enrollees know what changes are coming to their plan for 2012, so people are advised not to ignore mail from their Part D or Medicare Advantage company this month.  Most of my clients tell me they get too much mail from their Medicare Advantage or Part D plans and they generally do not open it.

If people are not paying attention and miss the new Annual Election Period, they will be locked into their Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan for 2012 – except for one option.  From January 1 to February 14th people can drop their Medicare Advantage plan and return to using their Medicare card. They will be allowed to enroll in a Part D plan at the time of their Medicare Advantage disenrollment.

Before disenrolling from a Medicare Advantage plan, a senior should investigate his/her options for getting a Medicare supplement. If a person is generally healthy, he can get a Medicare supplement. But if a senior has any chronic illness, or has been treated for cancer, Medicare supplement companies can refuse to offer coverage (once the person is beyond his six-month Medigap open enrollment period).  A senior with only Medicare would have to pay all the deductibles and 20% co-insurance, and there is no cap to the 20% co-insurance.

There are two companies operating in Arizona that will accept a person with health problems into their Medicare supplement plans, but they charge around $300 per month for the coverage (which is in addition to the Medicare Part B premium and a stand-alone Part D premium).

Note: When a person turns 65, or first gets her Medicare Part B, she has a six-month open enrollment period during which she cannot be refused a Medicare supplement – no matter what her health history is. Medicare Advantage plans accept all applicants no matter what their health status is – except for people with end-stage renal disease requiring dialysis.


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