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How to Prepare for Medicare's Annual Enrollment Period

Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) -- also known as Medicare Open Enrollment Period -- is a time for important decisions about your healthcare coverage. We want to help you be confident and prepared for this significant enrollment period.

Prepare-for-Medicare-Annual-Enrollment-Period

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

Medicare AEP is a yearly opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries to join, drop, or change Medicare plans. It occurs from October 15 to December 7 each year. Individuals are not required to change or join Medicare plans during this enrollment period, but may be limited in their options at other times. You can learn more about enrollment periods here.

How to Prepare for AEP

Read Your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)

If you are already enrolled in a Medicare plan -- in addition to Medicare Parts A and B -- you will receive a letter from your plan in September. This required letter will outline any changes to the plan for the next year.

Reviewing this letter is important because vital elements of your healthcare coverage may be different in the next year. You might be required to pay more for certain services, for example, or your physician may no longer be in-network for your plan. Changes like that may be important factors in your decision about healthcare coverage during AEP.

For easy comparison with other plans, you may want to save this letter until AEP.

Mark Your Calendar for AEP

Medicare AEP begins on October 15 and ends on December 7. You may want to mark those dates on your calendar so that you have a timely reminder and don’t miss this important enrollment period.

Additionally, you may wish to schedule a specific day when you plan to research Medicare plans or enroll in a specific plan. Having an appointment with yourself may help you prioritize this task and ensure it does not get pushed off to the end of AEP.

Make Lists

When you are researching or enrolling in a Medicare plan during AEP, you will want several pieces of information. Creating lists with this information before AEP may make the research and enrollment process easier. We recommend listing your physicians, prescriptions, and key concerns.

You will want the list of physicians so that you can discover whether they are in-network with the plans you are researching. If doctors are not in-network with a plan that otherwise fits your needs, you might decide to change physicians.

The list of prescriptions is useful to compare against each plan’s formulary, or list of prescription drug prices and coverage. That coverage can make a significant difference in the costs associated with your health needs under a plan.

The list of key concerns will be very different for each individual. It might include your specific healthcare needs, major health conditions (like end-stage renal disease, for example), or other sources of coverage, like Medicaid or additional retirement benefits. When you’re researching plans, either on your own or with an agent, you will be exposed to and evaluating a lot of information. Having a list of the things you want to remember or look for may help you stay focused and provide an easy way to compare plans.

Prepare for Enrollment

Many individuals enroll over the phone with a licensed insurance sales agent, although there are a few options for enrolling autonomously online, like our own enrollment portal. Before an enrollment, either online or via phone, you may want to collect a few items:

  • Your Medicare card
  • Your lists, if you made them
  • Pen and paper (or some way to take notes)

Being prepared with these items will help your enrollment process go more smoothly. Your Medicare ID is necessary for enrollment, the physician and formulary lists are useful for evaluating a plan, and you may want to write down pertinent information, such as your agent’s name and number or the plan name.

Conclusion

Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period is a time for comparing Medicare plans, which some people find overwhelming. With these few steps of preparation, your AEP experience may be easier.

You can receive additional help finding, comparing, and enrolling in Medicare plans by calling our Medicare advocates. These trained individuals represent a number of major Medicare plan providers and can assist you in reviewing plans, checking for your physicians, looking up your prescriptions in formularies, and enrolling in a plan.

Don’t hesitate to call for a no-cost consultation: 1-800-991-4407 / TTY 711, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday to Friday.

Learn more about AEP: