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  • Nathan Rubenstein

Navigating Medicare Open Enrollment During COVID-19

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

The Medicare AEP (Annual Election Period) is the time of year where existing Medicare members can change Medicare Advantage or Part D plans every year. The dates are October 15 until December 7.

There are different enrollment periods for people turning 65 or losing work insurance later in life, are moving, etc. If you fall into one of those different populations, you probably have more time to make your Medicare decisions.

Usually, during that period, the different insurance carriers have local seminars, agents have booths in stores with pharmacies, etc. All of that may be off the table this year, depending on how safe your community is.

Here are a few pointers to help you navigate the Medicare open enrollment season this year:

Check Your Medicare Plan

If your Medicare plan is not terminating (you get many notices if it is), and you are happy and want to stay in your plan, you do not have to do anything. It will roll into 2021 seamlessly. (You should receive an “Annual Notice of Change” from your carrier by October. Be sure to look through it and make sure you are okay with any changes.)

Review Your Medicare Supplement Plans

If you have a Medicare Supplement policy, you have the flexibility to change your plan at any time throughout the year. The Annual Election Period is a good time to review your Part D prescription drug plan, if applicable. In most cases, AEP is the only time you can make changes to your Part D plan.

Work with a Local Medicare Insurance Agent

All Medicare plans are county and zip-code based. This means you may fare better if you connect with a local agent who represents several local plans rather than calling into an 800-number from a commercial with someone famous on it. (They are probably sending you into a telemarketing operation licensed in several states but with little information about which providers, hospital systems, etc., accept the plans in your community.)

Pay Attention to Your Drug Costs

Brand name drugs, insulin, and other costly medications can be the biggest expense of many Medicare members. Make sure you are considering those costs when picking a plan. There are also strategies beyond your insurance to lower drug costs. Ask your Medicare insurance agent for tips.

Be Careful Where You Enroll in Medicare

If you are going to enroll online, make sure you are using a trusted source or website. If you cannot confirm that it is safe, it is probably better to enroll directly on the carrier’s website or even Medicare.gov. Do not fall for a distracting website where your personal information might not be protected.

Take Advantage of Telemedicine

CMS has greatly reduced the barriers to your providers using telemedicine for many of your appointments. If you would like to try one of those options, talk to your provider or insurance company to find out what options you have.

If your concerns are not addressed here, please feel free to reach out to me directly. I can either help with the answer or connect you with an agent in your community who can.

Nate Rubenstein is the founder of Midwest Medicare Advisors, LLC. He and his team have helped approximately 2,000 Medicare beneficiaries throughout the country.

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