As a Medicare beneficiary, you’ve probably realized that Medicare changes every year. It adjusts your premiums and deductibles and this in turn causes updates to your chosen Medicare insurance plan. Your Medicare Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) letter can help prepare you for the changes that your Medicare plan will make for the following year.
Who Received a Medicare Annual Notice of Change Letter?
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan or a stand-alone Part D drug plan you will receive an Annual Notice of Change Letter each year in September. (People with only a Medigap plan don’t receive these because Medigap plans do not have benefit changes from year to year).
What is an Annual Notice of Change?
The Medicare Annual Notice of Change is a document you receive in the mail that explains the changes that your Medicare Plan has made. Some changes you can see on an ANOC letter are increases or decreases in your monthly premiums, charges (copays, deductibles, etc.) service area, and drug formulary.
It’s important to aware that you will receive one of these every single year. I’ve never seen even one plan that did not have some kind of change for the upcoming year. This is largely because Medicare changes the deductibles, copays, and coinsurance on Original Medicare and Part D each year. Your plan then must also adjust to cover what is usually a higher deductible or higher copay amount than last year
When Do Medicare Plan Changes Go into Effect?
If your plan makes changes to their benefits, premiums copays, or networks, etc., the modifications will go into effect as of January 1st the following year. The reason that your plan sends you the notice in September is so that you have time to review the plan changes. If you are unhappy with those changes, then you can use the Medicare Fall Open Enrollment window to select a new plan that will begin January 1st.
When Do I Receive My Medicare Annual Notice of Change Letter?
Medicare states on their website that you should expect to receive your Annual Notice of Change each year during the month of September. You should receive you letter no later than September 30th.
Be aware that your plan will send your ANOC letter to the address that you have on file with Medicare. If you have moved, it’s very important to notify Medicare at once so that your Annual Notice of Change doesn’t get lost in the mail.
What Do I Do with My ANOC?
As soon as you receive your Annual Notice of Change, you will want to review it thoroughly. Make sure you can afford the changes in costs. You will also want to make sure you are still within the plan’s service area.
Most importantly, look for any medications that you take that are being dropped or are moving from one tier to another which will affect your copay for that medication. This is one of the things that many beneficiaries neglect to do, but it’s really important. You don’t want to find out in January – when it may be too late to make changes – that one of your expensive brand name medications is no longer being offered next year by your plan.
Here are some questions you should ask when reviewing your ANOC Letter:
- Does the plan for next year still cover your important medications?
- Are there any coverage restrictions for those medications, such as quantity limits or prior authorizations?
- How much will you pay for generic and brand name drugs?
- Has the monthly premium changed?
- Has the Part D drug deductible increased?
If the plan is a Medicare Advantage plan, here are some of the question you should ask yourself as you review your ANOC.
- Are your doctors and hospitals still in the plan’s network next year?
- Will you need a referral from your PCP to see a specialist?
- How much is the plan’s out-of-pocket maximum for next year? Has it increased from this year?
- In the event of a serious illness, do you have the funds available to cover that out-of-pocket maximum?
- How much are the copays for healthcare services that you know you will need? Can you afford those copays?
- Is there a medical deductible? Is there a drug deductible?
What If I Don’t Like the Changes to my Medicare Plan?
If you are not okay with the Medicare changes that your plan makes, you can always switch plans. Again, the reason your carrier must send you the ANOC in September is so you have time to switch plans during the Annual Election Period (AEP).
Medicare’s website can provide you with a list of Medicare Advantage plans and Part D drug plans being offered in your county for next year.
If you would like to shop your Medicare Advantage plan, contact Boomer Benefits and get an analysis of your options from one of our Medicare Experts. Our service is completely free.
What is the Annual Election Period?
Every year, Medicare offers this period during which people can change their Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan. If you have a stand-alone Part D drug plan, you can change to a different Part D drug plan.
Another change you can make during the AEP is switching from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare. Many people who do this also for a Part D drug plan to go alongside their Original Medicare.
The Annual Election Period begins on October 15th and ends on December 7th each year. Any plan changes you make during this period will go into effect on January 1st of the following year.
It’s important to note that the Annual Election Period has nothing to do with Medigap plans. Some people think that this period can also be used to switch Medigap plans without going through medical underwriting. That’s not the case at all.
You can certainly apply for a Medigap plan during this period, but in most states you’ll be required to answer health questions. An underwriting will review your Medigap application and will decide whether to approve or decline your request for coverage.
You can apply to switch Medigap plans anytime throughout the year, but unless you are still within your one-time Open Enrollment Period has ended, you will most likely have to go through medical underwriting.
How Our Medicare Brokerage Can Help
If you conclude that your plan’s upcoming changes won’t affect you much, you can let your plan automatically renew. However, if the explanation of changes worries you, working with a Medicare broker like Boomer Benefits can help.
We are able to look through multiple Medicare Advantage plans from several insurance carriers. This way you are able to review all the price quotes from one place.
An even better benefit when enrolling through Boomer Benefits is our Client Service Team. Our Client Service Team is a completely free service we offer to all of our clients. Whenever you have problems with doctor offices, coverage issues, or pretty much anything else dealing with your Medicare plan, our Client Service Team will be ready to assist you.