Medicare alphabet soup – AEP and OEP

Leah Kari, CMR, Medicare Health Insurance Products Broker

“If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” Eubie Blake, Composer, lyricist and pianist of ragtime, jazz and popular music died in 1983 at age 96.

Selecting the Medicare healthcare coverage that helps you take the best care of yourself and fits your changing needs is crucial and the time to review your plan is only a few short weeks away.

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) for Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Prescription Drug plans, beginning October 15 to December 7, provides those on Medicare an opportunity to change their medical and prescription drug coverage for 2019.

Before, the plan you selected during AEP was in place for a year, unless you qualified for certain events permitting a plan change.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have now reinstated the Open Enrollment Period, (OEP,) offering new options for you. The disenrollment period, January 1 to February 14, is replaced by the Open Enrollment Period from January 1 to March 31. Those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan may disenroll from that plan and select a new Advantage Plan one time only. This allows beneficiaries to change from one like plan to another like plan. Beneficiaries may also disenroll from their Medicare Advantage Plan and revert to Original Medicare and add a Medicare supplement and/or a prescription drug plan. The new plan will be effective the first day of the next month after the change. (1)

Your action steps

1. Review your plan’s notices: Your plan’s annual Notice of Change lists changes to your benefits and plan rules effective January 1, 2019. This may affect your prescriptions, copays, or the doctors you prefer. Read every letter received from your Medicare plan about any other plan changes for next year.

2. Consider what matters most: Has your health changed in 2018? Will your current plan meet these needs? Does another Medicare plan offer better options or pricing?

3. Don’t delay! Review all your options: While AEP runs from October 15 to December 7, all plan changes will be available October 1.

Consult with your broker or agent about your options, including a Medicare Supplement, (Medigap,) with a Prescription Drug Plan. You can change your plan for 2019 beginning October 15, but not before.

Live long and prosper, but take a hint from Eubie Banks. Get your 2019 health plan facts before those facts get you. Your health and peace of mind depend on it!

Leah Kari, CRM, and retired pharmaceutical representative is a licensed life and health insurance broker in Tucson. Reach Leah for comments at 520-484-3807 or email [email protected] (TTY users dial 711.)

1 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, CY 2019 MA Enrollment and Disenrollment Guidance: Medicare Managed Care Manual, Chapter 2, Section 16, page 32, Section 30, page 32, Section 40, page 58, Section 50, page 102 and Section 60, page 133.