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Medicare Annual Election Period: October 15-December 7

Election Period starts October 15 and lasts until December 7. This period, formerly known as Open Enrollment, is the time when you can join, change or drop a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan for the 2014 calendar year.

During the Annual Election Period we recommend that you give your Medicare Advantage Plan a check-up to ensure your plan meets your needs. For details, we talked with THIPA’s Member Services Manager, Loretta Morrow and Insurance Agents Vince Kelly and Susan Arbour.

Senior Living: How do you give your Medicare Advantage Plan a check-up?

Vince Kelly, Insurance Agent: You start with your mailbox. Every member will receive a big packet in the mail from his or her current Medicare Advantage Plan insurance company. You must read this packet. I know it’s a lot of information, but inside there’s an Annual Notification of Change letter.

Susan Arbour, Insurance Agent:The Annual Notification of Change letter will contain a benefit grid that allows you to compare specific benefits of your Medicare Advantage Plan and how they are changing from 2013 to 2014. For instance, perhaps in 2013 you have a transportation benefit but in 2014 you won’t. If this is the case, the letter buried in that packet will tell you.

Loretta Morrow, THIPA Senior Member Services: It’s also important to assess your changing medical needs. Perhaps you’re newly retired and need a gym benefit. Or maybe you’re not driving anymore and need the transportation benefit. If you are planning world travel, you will also want to consider your health plan’s worldwide Emergency Room coverage and also Out Of Pocket Maximums. The point is, make sure your existing medical needs and the benefits your plan offers match up.

Vince: That’s great advice, Loretta. It’s why I tell seniors to look at the drug formulary. It comes in the packet, too. You need to look up all the drugs you’re taking and check their cost. For instance, in 2013 maybe your blood pressure drug was a Tier 1 drug and now it’s a Tier 2 drug. Instead of paying $5 for your prescription, you’ll pay $10.

Susan: I tell my clients their job is to not only review their existing benefits, but also to compare what other plans offer.

Loretta:Another thing, if you’re been thinking about changing your primary care physician, now is a great time to do that. You will receive a new provider directory in that packet as well. You can call Senior Member Services and we can help you select a new primary care physician. Remember, you can change your primary care physician any time, not just during the Annual Election Period.

Susan:You may also receive a new insurance card. This happens when your co-pay has changed.

Vince: You’ll be receiving a lot of marketing from health insurance companies during this time. The way some companies are wording their material may lead you to believe that you must sign up for a certain supplement plan. Don’t get swayed by something you read in the mail. You do NOT have to change anything if your current plan meets your medical and financial needs.

Susan: Vince is right. Carefully compare the benefits of each plan you’re considering with your existing Medicare Advantage Plan before making any change. If you have questions, you can call an insurance agent like Vince or me and we will go over the plans with you. We do not have a vested interest in any plan. Our job is to help you find the right plan for you.

Vince: You also should avoid chain emails that are designed to scare you. There’s been a lot of unfounded worry over the Health Insurance Marketplace that starts in 2014. It’s designed to help people who don’t have any health insurance. You have health insurance through Medicare. You do not need a Marketplace Plan. Also, the Marketplace won’t have any effect on your Medicare coverage or your benefits.

Loretta:It’s also important to remember that if you do nothing during the Annual Election period, your Medicare Advantage Plan will remain the same.

Senior Living: Thanks so much, Loretta, Vince and Susan. Seniors, if you’ve still got questions you can reach Loretta by phone 866-568-4472 or email, Susan by phone 310-938-8485 or email, or Vince by phone 310-625-1837 or by clicking the “contact me” icon on his website

Categories: Healthy Living,News

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