If you have followed the news about legislation that affected Private Fee-For-Service plans (PFFS), you may be expecting to receive a letter informing you that United HealthCare MedicareDirect will not be renewed for next year.
This doesn’t just pertain to plans from United Healthcare. In fact tens of thousands of people who enrolled in a PFFS Medicare Advantage plan will receive notices that their plan is not renewing for next year.
Insurance companies are required to mail the Annual Notice of Change notices each September. This notice details any changes to plan benefits and premiums as well as whether or not the current plan will be available for the following year.
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Don’t panic… you are protected
When you enrolled in your Medicare Advantage plan you enrolled in an annual plan. There was no guarantee that your plan’s benefits or monthly premium would remain the same for the following year or that the plan would continue to be available.
But you are protected. The insurance company administering the Advantage plan is obligated to honor their contract. If your United Healthcare MedicareDirect plan is not renewing the insurance company must:
- Allow you uninterrupted coverage of your plan benefits through December 31st.
- Pay all valid claims incurred prior to midnight December 31st.
- Continue to provide customer service for concerns or as it relates to claims incurred prior to midnight December 31st.
In addition to having your plan intact, you will now have a Special Election Period (SEP) to enroll in a new Medicare Advantage plan. If you choose not to enroll in an Advantage plan for the following year you can return to original Medicare and purchase a stand-alone Medicare Part D drug plan.
In addition to having the option to return to original Medicare you also have a Guaranteed Enrollment Period which allows you to purchase a Medicare supplement policy without medical underwriting.
If you have considered a Medigap policy but were concerned about pre-existing conditions losing your Medicare Advantage plan could be a blessing in disguise.
Steps to take if your MedicareDirect plan is no longer available
The good news is that you are protected through the end of the year. But there are certain steps you must take to secure coverage for next year.
- Educate yourself on the differences between Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare supplement policies and decide which is your best option.
- If you choose to enroll in an Advantage plan you have the protection of a SEP which gives you mre time than the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). Compare plans including what may be available from Unitedhealthcare.
- If a Medicare supplement is the way to go be aware that plans are standardized and it’s a lot easier to compare supplemental coverage than comparing Advantage plans.
- If you have chosen Medicare supplemental insurance you will need to purchase a stand-alone Part D plan.
If you want to stay with an Advantage plan it may be time to consider a network-bases plan like a PPO or HMO. The availability of PFFS plans is not going to get any better in the coming years and you may find yourself in the same position next year.
If switching to a supplement is your choice then you may want to consider the benefits of Medicare Supplement Plan N. It has a lower cost than many of the the other plans and is an easy transition from a Medicare Advantage plan.
Follow the steps above if your United Healthcare MedicareDirect plan does not renew. Make sure that you do not procrastinate. Your SEP ends January 31 but if you wait until January to choose a new plan you will be without coverage during January. Start by comparing plans online to get the information to make an informed decision and get the best Medicare plan for you circumstances.