| Wed, Jul 27, 2011 @ 09:00 AM

What is Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) & Why is it Important to Your Medicare Coverage?

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

This year, Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is October 15 – December 7, 2011. What can you do to prepare?Throughout the year, Medicare maintains several enrollment schedules, including the Annual Enrollment Period, or AEP. AEP is a specific period of time when existing Medicare beneficiaries can make certain changes to their Medicare plans. Once AEP closes, no changes can be made until the following year unless you qualify for an exception (for example, because you move out of your service area). While in the past the dates have been different (November 15 – December 31), this year AEP is October 15 – December 7, 2011. Changes made to Medicare plans during this period become effective January 1, 2012.

What You Can Do During AEP

During AEP, Medicare beneficiaries can make the following changes to their plans:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan that offers drug coverage.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that offers drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage.
  • Join a Medicare prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D).
  • Switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to another Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

NOTE: For those participating in Medicare Advantage plans who wish to return to Original Medicare, they can leave their plan and switch to Original Medicare from January 1 until February 14. Persons returning to Original Medicare may also sign up for a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan during this period. Your coverage will begin the first day of the month after the plan receives your enrollment form.

Preparing for AEP

  • Assess Your Needs – Your first step in planning for AEP is to assess your health care needs. Because each plan has different coverage and pricing, you need to select the plan that is best for you. For example, most Medicare Advantage plans include some form of prescription drug coverage. Others include vision, dental, hearing and wellness care. Preventive services such as flu and pneumonia shots are included in Medicare Part B and are also included in many Medicare Advantage plans. If these or other specific features are important to you, keep them in mind as you begin your plan research.
  • Research Your Plans – You don’t have to wait until AEP opens to start your research. To compare plans in your area, go to Medicare.gov and use the plan finder tool. The plan finder provides personalized information about available Medicare prescription drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans and other Medicare health plans. Select “Health & Drug Plans” and then “Compare Drug and Health Plans.” You’ll get detailed information on plans in your area that meet the criteria you entered. As you review premiums, deductibles, estimated annual costs and overall plan ratings you will get a clearer picture of the kind of Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans that are right for you.

What to Do When AEP Begins

During AEP, you can join, switch or drop a plan:

  • Join You’re already enrolled in Original Medicare, and wish to join a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. After you select the plan you want, contact the plan provider for its preferred enrollment method. You can often enroll online, over the phone or request an enrollment packet to be sent to you by mail.
  • Switch – You’re already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan or a prescription drug plan and want to switch to another plan. When you complete your enrollment with your new plan, you will be automatically removed from your previous plan.
  • Drop – You’re dropping your Medicare Advantage plan and returning to Original Medicare. Notify the plan you are dropping during AEP and make sure that you have dropped your coverage by December 7. Your Original Medicare coverage resumes on January 1.

To learn more, contact UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Made Clear at 1-877-619-5582 (TTY 711), 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., 7 days a week. You may also call the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.

Resources:

Switching Plans – MedicareMadeClear.com

CMS’ Five-Star Plan Rating System – Medicare.gov

Medicare Advantage Plan Finder – Medicare.gov

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