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5 Steps To A Successful Annual Medicare Enrollment Season

Don’t waste your annual Medicare enrollment opportunity – follow these 5 stepsWoman Writes Success

It wasn’t that long ago that you had considerably more time to enroll in or make changes to your Medicare plan.

The Annual Election Period is your opportunity to drop, switch or enroll in a Medicare Advantage or Part D Plan.

With the exception of exercising your option to cancel your Medicare Advantage Plan during the Annual Dis-enrollment Period, there is little opportunity to make plan changes during the calendar year in which a Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D Plan is in effect.

Having a solid game plan to secure your best Medicare option is essential. Following are five things to consider and five steps to take to ensure you have a successful Annual Medicare Enrollment season.

Follow these 5 steps and enroll in the best Medicare plan for 2017

The following steps will help you find the best plan whether you are looking for a Medicare Advantage Plan (with or without drug coverage) or a Part D Plan.

1. Know your starting point – You are either in one of two situations: You either have coverage in place for 2016 or you do not.

  • If you have coverage in place – You will receive your Annual Notice of Change from your current plan by the end of September. This CMS mandated communication will notify you of any changes to your plan for the following year, including whether or not your plan will be renewed. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring this notice!
  • If you are eligible but do not have current coverage –First, determine if you have a Special Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and Part D to understand your enrollment guidelines. Also, if you are new to Medicare, don’t discount your Medigap Open Enrollment Period. Your best option may be purchasing a Medicare supplement rather than enrolling in an Advantage Plan. If you do not qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, recognize that Medicare Advantage and Part D Plans for 2017 will be available for your review on October 1st. This is also when companies and their Agents can begin marketing.

2. Don’t take the easy way out – Not taking action backed by solid research could cost you. It could cost you money and it could cost you in having a limited choice related to your medical care.

The first mistake you could make would be to take no action just because you learn that your current plan will renew for 2017. Here’s the thing… all plans that renew can (and most likely) have changes. A plan that seemed less than suitable last year may actually be a better option for you in 2017.

If you are new to Medicare or if you are considering a plan for the first time, don’t automatically take the advice of a well-meaning friend or family member. Plans can only be measured against your individual needs. In addition, plans have limited service areas and can include different benefits depending on the area. A recommendation from a distant source could be of little value… or worse!

3. Don’t neglect the opportunity to compare plans – You have 68 days to compare plans and 53 days to enroll in a plan. The enrollment period of October 15th through December 7th can go by quickly. Throw in a couple of holidays, a little procrastination and you may miss your opportunity.

Start early. You don’t need to fear a snap decision. You can submit as many applications as you like during the Annual Enrollment Period. Each subsequent application will cancel the previous and the last one processed will be the one that results in effective coverage on January 1st. An insurance company cannot lock you into a plan because all applications must be verified by CMS and you can only be enrolled in one plan at a time.

4. Know why it’s called insurance! – This step is only for the people who are either too tight or in denial that they would be prudent to have coverage. Just because you do not currently take any prescription drugs is not a good reason not to be enrolled in a Part D Plan. Your house is probably not currently on fire but you most likely have homeowners or renters insurance!

If you can manage it financially you could receive your medical benefits from original Medicare, but to skip Part D coverage is foolish. The average Part D premium is about $32 and if you don’t enroll when you are first eligible, you pay a penalty if you decide to enroll later on.

The risk of being robbed by a pharmaceutical company is too high not to insure yourself for such a small amount of money. And if you have a limited income, you may qualify from extra help.

5. Be certain that your enrollment is processed – After your enrollment you should receive a copy of your application and an outbound verification phone call to review your coverage. You will also receive a provider directory as well as your membership cards.

If you do not receive the outbound phone call or the documents listed above you should be proactive and follow up. Mistakes do happen and you don’t want to bear the brunt of the consequences.

After you have your plan in place, be sure to keep all of your plan documents together. Referring to a printed provider directory or formulary is a lot easier than sitting on hold to speak with a member services agent.

Be sure you know how to file an appeal or a grievance if the need arises. Staying on top of your benefits and making sure that you are getting what you paid for is ultimately your responsibility.

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  1. Very good post and timely. Been on Advantage Plans for many years and you must do your homework. Be on guard for long term temporary moves (Florida for Six months).

  2. Thanks Carl. I hope people new to Medicare can benefit.

  3. Carl,
    On 3-01-2013 I will transfer from Aetna PPO to Medicare. I need to purchase a supplemental plan to cover the 20% not covered by Medicare . My employer will continue to provide me with a Rx plan.
    Can you let me know the track record of rates and services providedd by the top three Insuraqnce Providers? I also have a history of coronary heart disease, A- Fib and diabetes.Can the providers of supplemental insurance use this history to deny coverage and increase rates ?

  4. Art, I’ll answer the last question first. If I understand your situation correctly, it sounds like you will be aging into Medicare. If this is the case you will not be subject to underwriting because you will be in your Medigap Open Enrollment Period. The first question is difficult to answer because not all companies offer plans in all areas and the criteria for the top three companies is difficult to define. You could visit the website for your State’s Department of Insurance or Financial services to get ratings on all companies.


  6. Robert, If you are in your Medigap Open Enrollment Period or are entitled to Guaranteed Issue Rights you should be fine. Otherwise you should speak with an agent that represents AARP Medicare Supplement Plan F to learn about the underwriting in your State.

  7. David,
    Please advise the difference between Medicare Advantage to plan F. I will be turning 65 March 1st and as most of your readers, I too am seriously confused by all the options. I live in Los Angeles county and thankfully am not hindered by reasonable premium costs as to making my choice. My biggest issue is being able to go to any doctor or specialist without referrals and approvals. Some news outlets are reporting that “Obamacare” will have a major effect on Medicare Advantage, such as it not being available after this new law takes full effect.

  8. I am thoroughly confused by all the hmo plans. Would like to see a graph with all of them side by side, stating their info and what hospitals they utilize. I’m a senior in excellent health. Do any of the plans offer Integrative medical options, like homeopathy, supplements, exercise, hypnosis therapy, alternative medicine, etc . Am looking forward to your reply.

  9. Claire, It’s good that you have some time to sort this out. I offer a free 8 part video mini-course that addresses the topic and is a good starting point to understanding the different types of Medicare plans. I would start there and then when the time is near, consult a local agent who represents several companies.

  10. Josette, I’m not sure the graphic comparison you are looking for exists. Medicare HMO’s can vary from one County to County and the number of graphs needed is beyond my resources and time. Some things just require that you dig in and get your hands dirty! Some Medicare Advantage plans include discounts and limited coverage for integrative medicine but probably not to the extent you are looking for. To some degree plan design is driven by marketing concerns, and although you and I appreciate the benefit of alternative medical options, the vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries probably are not as concerned or even knowledgeable about these options.

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