Almost another year has gone by and just around the corner the floodgates of Medicare marketing envelopes will begin. For some they technically haven’t stopped, you’ll just get more! Therefore, it’s important to know what paperwork to keep and what you can throw out. One document you’ll want to keep from your current health plan is the Annual Notice of Change or ANOC letter. Usually this comes in a booklet or folded into a letter but beefier then other envelops, expect it towards end of September.
What is ANOC?
The ANOC is basically a summary of the changes your current plan will have for the upcoming year. Click the following link and it’ll show you an example of last years ANOC for one of the plans available in Atlanta. https://www.aetnamedicare.com/documents/individual/2021/anoc/ANOC_2021_H5521_091_EN.pdf
As you’ll see in the below snapshot of an ANOC, there will be two columns to show you the differences from your current benefits and the upcoming changes for the following year. What you’ll likely not find in your ANOC is the changes to the formulary or the list of drugs that are covered by your Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan. If a medication you are currently prescribed is no longer going to be covered you should get a separate notification 60 days in advance, it will inform you of the medication no longer covered and posible alternatives to consider. Make sure you discuss these changes with your doctor or if you know you can’t switch medications perhaps you’ll need to have a formulary exception to have the plan continue to cover your medication or perhaps it’s time to shop for a new plan that will cover it.
In your ANOC don’t expect a new formulary, many times you’ll need to ask for this document (by calling customer service) or you can retrieve it from your health plans website, they will have them available no later than October 1st. Just make sure that when you are searching you are selecting the upcoming year documents, so for example this October you’ll want to search for 2022 formulary.
I find it’s easier to look for what you need if you register in your health plans website member portal. The link is likely right on your Member ID card. If you register you’ll be able to pull up your current plan documents, like your summary of benefits, formulary, claims activity and even a copy of your ID card if you happen to lose it. When my clients register to their member portal it makes it easy to research when ever there are questions regarding billing, we can easily see who has filed a claim with the health plan and who hasn’t. While that information can be discovered by calling customer service it helps to avoid the hold times.
What should you do after reviewing your ANOC letter?
I suggest you think about the past year and consider what benefits worked well and which you found to be either too expensive or didn’t cover you as much. Or it may be a good time to consider what treatments or coverage you’ll need for the up coming year. Perhaps you are considering a major surgery, dental work, maybe you’ll need new glasses or you are having a hard time paying for your groceries etc. Make sure to write these down so you don’t forget.
After you’ve identified some benefits that you may need, talk to your agent about them. It would be helpful to have your written list of concerns or benefits you think you’ll need for the upcoming year. Since there are many plans available it’ll help narrow it down to what is most important to you. Many times it may just be that you are on the best plan for you and thus you don’t need to make a change, other times there could be improvements on other plans that may offer you better benefits. Just make sure that you don’t forget to update your list of medications and doctors, that should always be reviewed before making any changes.
The 2022 plan year will include changes, that is certain. Medicare Advantage plans are continually offering new ways to keep their members healthy. Some benefits that are attractive are dental, vision allowances. Recently we’ve seen an increase in Medicare part B giveback plans, usually designed for people that are healthier. These plans will refund members part of what they pay for Medicare part B and it can be $50, $70 or more a month of refund. This refund gets put right into their social security check. Other clients have liked the healthy food cards, these are monthly allowances given to members to purchase healthy foods at their local grocery stores. Something new we’ve seen in recent years are plans offering in-home assistance with light chores, usually for those that meet certain health conditions and it’s limited to a few hours a week, but non the less helpful for great number of Medicare beneficiaries.
Are there any low income assistance programs to consider?
For some it would be a good time to review their financials and see if they qualify for any of the federal or state assistant programs. These include Extra Help or Low Income Subsidy, this program has 4 levels and it helps reduce the cost of medications for those that qualify. Ask your agent or contact social security to see if you qualify, you can also visit www.ssa.gov and apply it only takes 5-15 minutes. Another program which automatically enrolls you into the Extra Help program is the Senior Savings Program. This program is available through your home state Medicaid office, though many have the option to apply online too. With both these programs you do have to meet the eligibility requirements but doesn’t hurt to see if you qualify. The eligibility for them also changes every year so if you’ve tried in the past to apply and were not approved check again.
Our agency is here to help.
We are strictly a Medicare insurance agency, so we strive to be the best at helping our clients navigate the Medicare plan options. Our goal is to make it easy for you. Don’t have someone to help you navigate your plan options? Give us a call, we will be happy to help. Our agency has grown from just a few clients back in 2017 to over 700 clients in just 4 years. That is only possible because we work hard for our clients, we make it easy and we find them the best plan for their needs. We are not like those temporary agents that is in business one year and gives up the next, we are here to stay.
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