Sorting Through the Noise of Medicare Annual Enrollment


Greg DuretteBy Greg Durette

For those folks new to the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), the overwhelming volume of mailing pieces, emails and phone calls are dizzying. For those folks more experienced this time, the sigh of despair and cries of “Oh no, not again!” can be heard from every balcony and rooftop.

Keep in mind, the closer we get to December 7th (the official end of the AEP), the more intense it will get—if you let it. Regardless of your experience level, there are some things you can do to quell the noise and help make the best possible decision for you.

First, make sure you pay attention to the mail and phone calls you receive from your existing insurance company. These communications will be very valuable to you as they likely will be about the changes to your current plan in the new year. Too often, because of the volume of clutter mail, folks tend to throw these out along with everything else just to try and keep the kitchen counter clear. As the saying goes, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

Next, try to make a real effort to understand everything you can about your current plan. Know the exact name and type of plan as well as how much you are paying in premiums. Is it a Supplement Plan, also known as a Medigap plan? If so, which one; M, N, G, F, etc.? Know which type of Part D or, Stand-Alone Prescription plan (if any) you have, to go along with this Supplement Plan. Know your deductibles, co-insurance and copays. Know if you are able to use your pharmacy of choice. Know how the coverage Gap (commonly known as the “Donut Hole”) works in your plan.

Perhaps you have an Advantage Plan instead. Again, know the exact name and type of plan (PPO vs. HMO) as well as how much you are paying in premiums. Being that most Advantage plans have the Prescription coverage built in, you will likely not have a separate premium for Part D. However, you will need to know the deductibles and co-insurances for the entire plan. Oftentimes, there will be a separate deductible for the Advantage Plan and the Prescription coverage within the plan. Also, know your copays and whatever Extra Coverages your plan offers such as Dental, Hearing, Vision, Rewards Programs, Silver Sneakers, etc.

The two last, most important pieces of information you will need to know about your current plan are, what your premium will be and are your doctors/medications going to be on the plan in 2024. Will you have in-network options in other states? Some plans get better, some plans, not so much. Some get more expensive and some reduce to as low as $0 premium per month. Some doctors stay and some doctors go. Some medications get more expensive, less expensive or simply are not covered. It all depends on where you live and the plan you have.

Now, FINALLY, you are armed and ready to attack that onslaught of external information. Be careful of where you look! Many of those ads you see on TV with famous sports figures/actors are nothing more than marketing companies looking to get your information to SELL to anyone willing to pay for it. If you respond to those ads, you will only make the onslaught of mail, emails, texts and calls that much more invasive in your life.

Work with people you know and/or reputable insurance companies you know and recognize. Deal direct and don’t be afraid to let someone know you would prefer they not contact you again if you have settled on what you want to do.

That is the final important point. Now that you are well informed and have made a well-informed decision, you will feel much better about changing the channel when the next Medicare ad shows up on TV. You can sort your mail over the trash barrel. Talk about stress free living!

Greg Durette is a qualified, licensed agent with Florida Health Connector providing Medicare throughout the State and is based in Niceville. He has been in the insurance industry for over 40 years and can be reached at his office at 850-842-2400 or his mobile at 978-509-2941.