If you have a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D plan, it’s very important you read at least a portion of the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) your insurance company sends you. This will usually arrive in your mailbox in a large, intimidating package with your insurance company logo affixed in the upper left-hand corner. Medicare insurance companies are bound by regulation to have this delivered and in your hands by September 30 of each year. Please resist the temptation to throw this in the recycling bin, or stash it near the phone in the, “I’ll get to it later” pile!
Here’s why: The AEP (Annual Election Period) is coming on October 15, and ends on December 7. If you don’t read your ANOC before then, you won’t know what changes are being made to your plan until they go into effect on January 1! By that time, it’s too late to make a change for an entire year if you want to pick a new Medicare Advantage or PDP plan.
The bad news: It can be a thick, heavy document. It’s also in black and white, and very boring and bland.
The good news: I’m not asking you to read the whole thing, just the important parts. What are the important parts? Immediately go the section entitled, “Summary of Important Costs 2017.” It should be right up front, either page 2 or 3.
Your Benefits Change Every Year
I’ve never seen a Medicare Advantage plan NOT change at least SOMETHING from one year to the next. Same goes for PDP plans. Almost every plan makes some changes for the new year, so the costs and benefits in place on December 31 may very different on January 1. Here are some changes that can really throw you for a loop!
You May Have a Premium!
Surprise! If you had a $0 Medicare Advantage premium, that may have changed! Every year thousands of people get surprised in this way, all because they do not read their ANOC and only realize this when they either get a bill, or notice a new deduction from their Social Security checks in January or February.
Your Premium May Be Going Up!
The ANOC is where (and when) Medicare insurance companies announce you’re going to have to pay more (or not) in the upcoming year for your PDP or Medicare Advantage Plan
Your Plan May Be Disappearing
This happens all the time. Sometimes insurance companies stop offering certain plans. This is usually because they can’t make money in that area, don’t have enough willing doctors, physicians or pharmacies to participate in their plans. Sometimes, plans go out of business or are terminated by Medicare.
Other ANOC Changes to Watch Out For
The plan may change its charges for premiums, deductibles, and copays.
Your very important Maximum-out-of-Pocket (MOOP) may be increasing! The maximum MOOP for Medicare Advantage plans for 2017 remains at $6,700 annually, not including Medicare Part D costs.
Your Medicare Advantage or PDP plan may move drugs to different tiers so the copays change.
The plan may alter its formulary (the list of drugs it covers) by dropping some drugs or adding others. They can also do this at any time during the year.
For other changes, the plan must send you details in an ANOC.
The Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) is a document listing any changes in plan coverage, service area, or costs that will go into effect the following January. All Medicare plans are required to send this to plan members by September 30, or 15 days before the start of the Annual Election Period.
You should review at least the Summary of Changes in your ANOC Annual Notice of Change especially if you’re worried about whether or not your medications are still included in the plan’s drug formulary (the list of prescription drugs covered by the plan). If a drug you take is no longer covered, you may want to consider switching to a different Medicare prescription drug plan.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan and notice your out of pocket costs going up, it’s a good idea to shop and compare your current coverage against other Medicare Advantage plans during the Annual Election Period.
If you haven’t received the Annual Notice of Change by the end of September, you should contact your Medicare plan to request it.
Remember to read your ANOC (or, at least some of it)! If you miss making a new plan choice during the AEP, you’re basically locked in for the next year, unless you qualify for a Special Election Period (which you shouldn’t count on).