If you use Medicare for your healthcare or prescription drug coverage (Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Part D), you should have received a letter in the mail in September regarding your current plan. If you are unsure what this letter means, it’s simply a notice telling you what changes will be made to the plan in the upcoming year, if any. This letter is sent out every year to anyone with Medicare Advantage or a Medicare Part D drug plan. It’s known as the Annual Notice of Change and Evidence of Coverage (ANOC). This letter should have been sent out by September 30, or 15 days before the start of the window when it’s possible to change your Medicare plan. Here’s what you need to know about it.
Why Read this Notice?
The ANOC is important to Medicare plan holders as 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 expenses 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 15 to December 7 each year. This is when you can make changes to your Medicare plan. If you notice that the changes being made to your current Medicare plan no longer make it your best option for coverage, you will have time to research other plans and select a new one during open enrollment.
If you haven’t received this ANOC letter by now, reach out to your Medicare insurance carrier so you can examine any upcoming changes and determine whether or not you should change your coverage. You may also decide to choose a new plan if your health has changed, unrelated to the new changes in your previous Medicare plan.
What to Pay Close Attention To
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 have an equally important impact. Pay 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 2018, 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 will 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 increase. If that’s the case according to your ANOC, consider switching to a plan with a lower deductible as long as its premiums aren’t enormous by comparison. Lower-deductible plans typically have higher premiums, but they may cover a greater percentage of your medical expenses.