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IBX Insights

For Caregivers: Navigating the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period Like A Pro

By October 2, 2019July 25th, 2023Caregiving Health Insurance Medicare

A young woman looks at a tablet while an elderly woman drinks coffee

If you’ve ever helped a loved one choose a Medicare plan, you know there’s a lot to consider. To help make this year’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) go as smoothly as possible, here’s some information and resources that can help you understand the options available and find the coverage that fits their needs.

The Basics of AEP

Medicare AEP is an important time to reflect together on the care your loved ones have been receiving and plan for the coming year. AEP starts on October 15 and ends December 7; during this time, current beneficiaries should review their coverage and decide whether they want to stay with the same plan for the coming year or make a switch. Plan changes go into effect January 1 of the following year.

When you and your loved one decide on a Medicare plan for 2020, keep in mind that there are four options: Original Medicare, a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan, a Part D Prescription Drug Plan, or a Medicare Advantage plan.

  • Original Medicare includes both Part A – hospital coverage – and Part B – coverage for doctor’s visits and other medical treatment.
  • Medigap plans are provided by a private insurer and help with some or all of the out-of-pocket costs you’re left with after Original Medicare pays its share.
  • Part D plans only help cover your costs for prescription drugs.
  • Medicare Advantage plans are actually Part C – they’re administered by private insurers and are designed to reduce costs and improve health outcomes. Medicare Advantage plans also may or may not include Medicare Part D Prescription Drug coverage.

The Annual Notice of Change

Every Medicare Advantage (Part C) member will receive an Annual Notice of Change document – this letter outlines all the changes that will impact their care in the new year if they stay with their current plan. It should arrive no later than September 30. Review it together and consider the following:

  • Is the member paying so much for prescription drugs that they worry about the cost?
  • Are their copays so costly that they avoid seeing the doctor?
  • Are they uncomfortable or anxious about the monthly premium?
  • Are they receiving charges they don’t understand?
  • Are they being blocked from accessing therapies or tests that their doctors think would be beneficial?

If the answers to any of those questions are “yes,” it’s time to consider switching plans.

How to Choose a New Plan

If you and your loved one decide it’s time to make a change, there are resources and tools available that make comparing health plans easy. You can find detailed information about all available plans and their benefits, and you can check to see whether specific providers or prescription drugs are covered under the plan before enrolling.

There are also experts available to help talk you through all the options your loved ones will have for next year’s Medicare coverage, such as whether their doctors and hospitals are in network, how much their prescriptions will cost, and what additional benefits they’ll be eligible for.

Choosing the right plan will make all the difference for your loved one’s health and happiness, and it just might make caregiving a little easier on you, too.

Helpful Resources

  • Go to a local Independence Blue Cross seminar – you can call or register online.
  • Meet with a licensed sales agent who can come to your home for a one-on-one consultation.
  • Call us toll free at 1-877-393-6733 with any questions.
  • Use the Plan Finder.
  • Contact Medicare directly.

Website last updated: 9/20/2019
Y0041_HM_20_78854 Accepted 10/7/2019

Theresa Lauer

Theresa Lauer is the Director of Medicare Broker Sales for Independence Blue Cross. She is a long-time leader in cultivating, developing, managing, and leading profitable sales programs. In her current role, Theresa and her team forge new opportunities each day within the Independence five-county southeastern PA area.