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Medicare enrollees: things to know before 2015 open enrollment

By Steve Gulas, Bolte Insurance

This year’s annual open enrollment will be October 15 through December 7. This is the time of year in which all Medicare enrollees can change prescription drug plans or Medicare Advantage Plans. If you are going to make a change in your coverage this is typically the only time of the year you can change plans unless you qualify for a Special Election Period due to a special circumstance recognized by Medicare. Not reviewing your plan each year can be a costly mistake and may leave you in a plan that may not suit your needs.

Review your Annual Notice of Change Letter (ANOC) from your present insurance plan. These letters are very important to review and are typically sent out around October 1 by your Part D Prescription Drug Plan or Medicare Advantage Plans. It is important to look at this letter closely as this letter is usually the easiest way to see the changes in your plan from 2014 to 2015 benefit years. Do not assume that just because your plan worked well for you this year that it will next year. Many things can change from year to year. Some of the changes can include deductibles, copays, formulary lists, (what medicines are covered by your plan), and premiums.

Review your plans provider network if you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan to make certain the doctors and hospitals most important to you will remain in your plans network. Most Medicare Advantage plans are PPO or HMO plans. These types of plans are very popular and can be a very good value for many people, however, the key to saving yourself the most amount of money if enrolled in these plans is to use in-network providers. With HMO plans you must use in-network doctors in order to be covered. PPO plans will cover you outside of your plans network, but most of these plans have large deductibles that must be met before the plan will pay.

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