Insurance enrollment periods are stressful for everyone. With the multitude of changes that have happened in the last few years with Medicare, it’s no wonder that the open enrollment period can cause anxiety. But understanding the changes and what you must do as part of the annual enrollment period can help remove the stress from your yearly insurance election process.
When is the Open Enrollment Period for 2018 for Seniors in DE?
The open enrollment period for coverage, also known as the Annual Election Period (AEP), in 2018 is from October 15th, 2017 to December 7th, 2017. These became the dates for the AEP in 2011 and have been ever since. There is no expectation that they will change in the foreseeable future, so if you’re a Medicare participant it’s worth writing those dates down.
It’s worth noting that some changes to Medicare Advantage, original Medicare, and even Medicare Part D (prescription drugs) can occur after these dates, there are a number of restrictions and special circumstances that must apply for you to do so. Ideally, if you know that you will be participating in a Medicare plan in 2018, you should make your elections during the AEP.
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What Can I Do During the AEP in DE?
During the election period is when you have the most flexibility to make changes to your plan. Common changes that occur during this period are:
- Switches from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or from Advantage to original
- New enrollments for Medicare Part D
- Changes in plans for Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D
Remember, enrolling in Medicare Advantage requires you to be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, and there must be an Advantage plan in your area.
What if I Want to Keep the Same Plan?
If you are happy with your existing plan, you may not want to make any changes. If that’s the case, you will be auto-enrolled in your current plan for next year (assuming that the plan is still available in your area).
However, it may be worth your time to spend a few minutes reviewing your plan, even if you don’t think you want to make a change. The reason for this is that providers are allowed to make changes to their plans every year, including changing premiums.
If your plan is being discontinued in your area, you can expect to receive a notice of non-renewal from your provider prior to October 15th. If that is the case, you must use the AEP to choose a new plan.
Are there Changes in 2018 That Will Affect Me?
There are several changes coming to Medicare in 2018.
New brackets for Part B for high incomes: Individuals making more than $85,001 a year, and couples making more than $170,001, are considered high income for the purposes of computing Medicare premiums. While the lower end of the high-income range won’t see changes, those making more than $160,000 as an individual or $320,000 as a married couple will be pushed into the higher premium bracket.
Part B premiums may change: In 2017, the standard premium for Medicare Part B was $134 a month, but the average paid was only $109. This was due to those on Social Security getting only a small cost of living increase, falling into the “hold harmless” provision. As a result, those not on Social Security saw the increase, but those on it did not. This year the cost of living increase is expected to be greater, which likely means that any changes in premium costs will be absorbed by the entire population, not just those not on Social Security.
Prescription “Donut Hole” will cost less: If you are one of the many recipients who reach the Part D “donut hole” in 2018, you’ll see better rates for your prescriptions than you have in the past. While the donut hole still exists, enrollees will only pay 35% for name brand and 44% for generic drugs in 2018. Those rates are down from 40% and 51%, respectively, in 2017. Even better news, it’s anticipated that the donut hole will close completely by 2020.
Contact BGA Insurance Group to get more information.