Shortly after the 2014 Medicare Advantage Plans became effective it seemed like every media outlet was scrambling to get AARP MedicareComplete members on camera telling their story about how they were no longer able to see their providers who were previously in network.
And I received numerous comments and emails about the no-good such and such company dropping the Silver Sneakers program or that no longer covered a medication or moved it from tier 1 to tier 3… and the list goes on.
If you plan on keeping your current Advantage plan in 2015 you should take note of what happened last year. Your 2015 Medicare Advantage Plan could undergo significant change. I’m not trying to frighten you… I’m merely stating a fact about how Medicare Advantage Plans work. Continue reading to learn how to review your Medicare Advantage Plan for changes.
There’s one piece of mail you really can’t afford to miss
Medicare Advantage Plans are annual plans. The plan is good for one calendar year. Insurance companies offering Advantage Plans have several options when a plan year ends. They can:
- Renew the plan as is
- Renew the plan but change any of the following: Premium, Benefits, provider network
- Not renew the plan
Your first step in learning about any potential changes is to read your Annual Notice of Change which you will receive in the mail, generally prior to October 1st. Insurance companies are required by CMS to send this notice to all members. The Annual Notice of Change will detail any changes that your plan will undergo for 2015. But don’t stop there…
This is the time that you should take a look at your plan as if you were reviewing it for the first time. Dig into the Summary of Benefits to learn what’s covered and what your potential costs will be. Have your prescriptions changed from last year? Even if they didn’t the plan’s formulary may have changed. As many people found out last year one of the ways for companies to save money is to move covered medications into a higher tier. And the one that really blind-sided a lot of AARP MedicareComplete / United Healthcare members was major changes to provider networks. This is the time to be certain that your providers are still included in the plan’s network.
Are you taking full advantage of the Annual Enrollment Period?
Blindly deciding to stay with your current Advantage Plan without reading and understanding your Annual Notice of Change is bad enough but not taking full advantage of the Annual Enrollment Period is another thing altogether. All Medicare Advantage Plans can undergo changes on an annual basis. And by the way… changes are not necessarily dis-advantageous. Sometime plans make some positive changes that may actually be a benefit for you.
During the Annual Enrollment Period you should review all available plans as if it was the first time you enrolled in a plan. And to some degree it really is. The fact that no plan typically remains the same for years means that your options are always changing and you should take advantage of that. So don’t make the mistake of believing that just because your current plan has been a good option this year that it will be for 2015. The Annual Enrollment Period is the time to do your homework!