If you have Medicare Advantage or a standalone Medicare Part D plan, then you should get a letter in the fall, typically in September, called the Plan Annual Notice of Change (ANOC). It’s sent by your health or drug plan and outlines any changes that are being made to your plan for the upcoming year.
The ANOC is sent by September 30th each year, or 15 days before the start of the Medicare Open Enrollment window, which runs from October 15th through December 7th. This annual signup period is your chance to review your current Medicare plan and make sure it’s still working for you. The ANOC can help you do that, since it tells you what to expect as far as changes go.
Here’s what to know about reviewing your Medicare coverage in 2022 using the ANOC as a guide.
Why Read this Notice?
The ANOC is important to Medicare plan holders — i.e., anyone who gets their Medicare health or drug coverage outside of Original Medicare — because it gives details of changes that will be occurring within your plan.
Unfortunately, these notice letters usually warn you of increased premiums or reduced coverage rather than beneficial changes. For example, a change could include your plan no longer covering a service or prescription you use regularly. And if you don’t find a new plan that does meet your coverage needs, you could face larger out-of-pocket costs for the same things that were covered just last year.
The Annual Notice of Change letter is sent out early enough before the Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP) — also called the Medicare Open Enrollment Period — that runs from October 15th to December 7th each year. This is when you can make changes to your Medicare plan.
What to Look For
Some of the most common changes in your Medicare plan outlined by the ANOC include premiums, formularies (prescriptions covered), and deductibles. Depending on your own personal healthcare needs, you should take the time to add up your average expected payments. Many people only look at premium prices when shopping for insurance or reading their ANOC, but deductibles and formularies can be just as (if not more) important in the long run. Pay particular attention to:
A small increase in your monthly premium may not seem like a lot, but over the course of a year the additional cost can really add up. Medicare Advantage and Part D premiums may actually be lower for many customers in 2022, so shop for a good plan to maximize your savings.
If your ANOC notifies you that your prescription drug coverage will be changing, go to the Medicare website or call your plan to check the coverage status of your prescriptions for the dosage you take. Under some plans, you can save money by switching to the generic brand of your prescription. Other plans will require that you try the generic brand of your prescription first before they’ll cover the brand name version.
The deductible, which is what you have to pay before your insurance carrier will pay for its share of your healthcare costs, may also increase. If that’s the case according to your ANOC, consider switching to a plan with a lower deductible — as long as the new plan you pick doesn’t bump other cost sharing amounts, like copays, in the process. Lower deductible plans typically have higher premiums, but they may cover a greater percentage of your medical expenses.
Taking the time to review your ANOC gives you a chance to make sure your plan is still working for you. Check premium costs and coverage, and compare these to what you paid over the last year and the kinds of coverage you really needed. If your plan isn’t what it used to be or you just want to see what else is available, use the open enrollment period to explore other options.
If you don’t get the annual notice by September 30th, contact your insurer to get a copy.