October 15–December 7 Is Medicare Open Enrollment

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The National Council on Aging offers a checklist of five steps to help people with Medicare evaluate their coverage

It’s that time of year again. Medicare Open Enrollment runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Across the country, individuals with Medicare already have been bombarded with paperwork, sales pitches, and reminders, leaving many wondering where to start. This year, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) is offering a handy checklist, email reminders, and more to help people with Medicare evaluate whether their coverage is still meeting their needs.

“There are always questions about how and when to start reviewing options during Medicare Open Enrollment,” said Leslie Fried, Senior Director of the NCOA Center for Benefits Access. “This year, we’re trying to make that process a little easier with a step-by-step checklist. Our Medicare education website, My Medicare Matters, also is providing helpful information through several blog posts and email reminders that are timed to walk people through the process.”

NCOA’s Medicare Open Enrollment Checklist has five steps:

Step 1: Watch the mailbox—Before Open Enrollment, beneficiaries should have received their Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)/Evidence of Coverage (EOC). They also should have a Medicare & You handbook. If they’ve put them aside, now is a good time to read them to see how their coverage may be changing this year.

Step 2: Gather personal information—To evaluate whether this year’s plan coverage is still appropriate, beneficiaries should gather their ANOC letter; a list of their prescriptions; a list of their providers; and an estimate of what they spent last year on health care services, fees, and copays.

Step 3: Go shopping—Now it’s time to shop. First, they’ll need to decide the kind of Medicare coverage that is right for them, then find the right policy. In most states, there are at least 25 Medicare Part D plans to choose from, and in some states as many as 40 Medicare Advantage plans are available.

Step 4: Seek expert advice—Beneficiaries don’t have to evaluate their options on their own. Start with a free and confidential Medicare QuickCheck®, which can evaluate their plan needs. Then visit the Medicare Plan Finder to compare policies. If they’d like free, personalized assistance, they should contact their State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Make an appointment early because availability can fill up quickly. They have just over seven weeks to do their research and make their decisions.

Step 5: Look ahead—After Open Enrollment ends on Dec. 7, it’s time to look ahead. It’s important to understand when new coverages take effect (even if they don’t change policies, they are likely to see policy changes starting Jan. 1) and to watch for another round of paperwork—this time about 2018 coverage.

“Choosing the right Medicare coverage can be difficult, and it doesn’t pay to wait until the last minute,” said Fried. “It’s important to review your coverage every Open Enrollment period to make sure your current plan still works for you. We’re hoping that with our checklist, you won’t feel alone in the process.”

Individuals with Medicare can sign up for My Medicare Matters reminder emails here and can read NCOA’s Complete Guide to Medicare Open Enrollment here.

Source: The National Council on Aging (NCOA), a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging whose mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling.

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