Each year you may receive information listing any changes to your plan coverage, service area, or pricing that will take effect at the start of the next year (January). It is a requirement for all Medicare plans to send this to members by September 30th each year, which is fifteen days before the start of the annual enrollment period
If you did not received your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) before October, then you should get in touch with your Medicare plan to request this information. Typically, you can find your plan’s contact information on the back of your plan membership card.
For seniors that are currently enrolled in a private Medicare plan which includes Medicare prescription drug coverage and Medicare advantage, your ANOC can help you determine whether your current plan still meets the needs of your health and prescription drug requirements.
One important check to make is whether or not your current prescription drugs appear on the drug formulary (which is a list of drugs that are covered by the plan). Some drugs that you take may no longer be covered, so you may want to change to a different Medicare prescription plan.
Your plan may not actually make any notable changes, but it is certainly worth comparing your current level of coverage with other Medicare prescription plans during the Enrollment Period. Keep in mind that stand-alone Medicare prescription plans and Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies, which sometimes offer different pricing for the same or similar coverage.
It’s possible that you discover a plan that is better suited for your current healthcare needs, and this means that you can switch during the Annual Election Period from October 15th to December 7th each year. Your current provider is expected to send your the Annual Notice of Change before the Enrollment Period so that you have enough time to make a decision about what to do with your current plan. Many seniors determine that switching to a new plan is a good idea given their current situation. If you do not elect to make changes during the Annual Enrollment Period, then you may find that there are limited opportunities to make changes to your benefits. You can also determine if you are eligible for a Special Election Period.
Do not confuse the ANOC from the Evidence of Coverage (EOC) documents that you receive each year. The ANOC only focuses on specific changes to your plan, whereas the EOC document is far more comprehensive and will detail how the plan works, what the plan pays, and the various cost sharing benefits. Keep both papers handy so that you can evaluate the totality of your coverage when making a decision to change plans.
If you have a Medicare Advantage Prescription drug plan or a Medicare prescription plan, the plan is also required to inform you have any coverage changes made during the year. Drug changes to the formulary must be sent out to anyone with coverage at least 60 days before the change actually takes place, or when you get your next prescription refill.