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IBX Insights

Your Guide to the 2018 Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

By October 16, 2017May 18th, 2023Health Insurance Medicare Member Resources

If you’re a Medicare member, you’ve probably heard of the Annual Enrollment Period  (AEP), which occurs every fall from October 15 to December 7. It’s the one time of year when Medicare members can make changes to their health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year.1

AEP is the busiest time of the year for me and my fellow associates at Independence Blue Cross. We’re looking at last year’s plans, pulling together information and materials, figuring out what worked for our members and what we can improve upon.

Of course, we’re also making sure our Member Help Team is ready to support you and other Medicare beneficiaries to make important decisions about health care coverage for the upcoming year.

Here are the most common questions to help you get a jump on planning for the 2018 Medicare AEP:

1. What kind of changes can I make during Medicare AEP?

There are a variety of changes Medicare beneficiaries can make to Medicare coverage during AEP:2

  • If you have coverage through Medicare Parts A & B, you can switch to a private Medicare Advantage plan (or vice versa).
  • You can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another that you feel will better meet your needs.
  • You can change from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t include drug coverage to one that does (or vice versa).
  • You can enroll in a Part D prescription plan if you don’t have one, drop your Part D coverage, or change from one Part D plan to another.

2. Should I consider making a change to my Medicare coverage?

It’s an important question, and there’s no right answer for everyone. In general, it’s a good idea to review your coverage every year and evaluate whether it’s meeting your needs.

Some common reasons for changing coverage include cost share amounts (deductible, coinsurance, and copays), which doctors and hospitals are part of the provider network, and whether a specific medication is covered and your cost share based on the tier and prescription benefit phase at the time of the fill.

3. How should I go about choosing a new plan or plans?

Let’s say that, after carefully weighing your options and considering your health care needs, you decide it’s time to make a change. What are your next steps?

Before AEP

First of all, remember that no insurer can discuss 2018 plans until the AEP opens on October 15. In the time leading up to the AEP, you can pull together any questions you have about your current coverage and develop a list of the benefits you’d like to explore once 2018 plan information becomes available.

During AEP

During AEP, from October 15 to December 7, there are a variety of ways to explore your options and find the best plan to meet your needs.

4. What if I want to keep my current plan?

So far, all of this information has focused on changing your Medicare coverage during the AEP. But that doesn’t mean you have to make a change. If your current coverage is meeting your needs and it’s available in 2018, you can stick with what you have. If you’re planning to keep your current plan, you don’t have to do anything; you’ll be enrolled automatically.

1Some Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period during which they can make changes to their Medicare coverage outside the AEP.
2Joining a health or drug plan., the official U.S. site for Medicare.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.


Melissa Zonies

As Manager of Performance and Administration within the Government Markets department at Independence, I play a key role in the overall customer experience for our senior members. I collaborate with my peers and Medicare associates to understand issues and identify opportunities for improvement. Whether directly or indirectly through my team, I take pride and enjoy assisting and simplifying the Medicare world for the senior population.