Living Columns & Blogs

Medicare annual open enrollment: 5 tips to survive the season

There are some changes to Medicare enrollment this year. It’s important to check what your plan will cover in 2018. Will it meet your health needs and budget? Will it cover the prescription drugs you need? If not, it’s time to find a new plan.

The following are some tips that will help you through the switch.

Don’t miss your deadline.

▪ Part D and Medicare Advantage plan members can switch plans between Oct. 15-Dec. 7, with coverage beginning Jan. 1.

▪ If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan and want to return to Original Medicare and a standalone Part D plan, you can do so from Jan. 1-Feb. 14, with coverage beginning March 1.

Make sure your plan will be offered next year. Open all mail from your plan. If your plan is not going to be offered, start your search early for a replacement.

If your plan will continue, check to see what it will cover next year. Insurers can change plan benefits, provider networks and what they charge you per month or at the doctor’s office. They will send you an annual notice of change that tells you what’s new. Be sure to be on the lookout for your annual notice of change. It will arrive by mail in September. The annual notice of change will detail:

▪ What you will pay in monthly premiums and annual deductibles

▪ What you will pay for doctor’s visits (copays or co-insurance)

▪ If your drugs will be covered and what you will pay out of pocket

▪ If your doctors will continue to accept your plan

▪ Which extra benefits will be covered, if any

If you want to switch, do your research. Use the tools on to help you pick a plan. You can enter your drugs and the pharmacy you prefer. The program will tell you what plans are right for you and compare the costs. And you can enroll right then and there.

Still having trouble? Get help from an APPRISE Counselor. If you still need help, give APPRISE a call. Your local team at the Centre County Office of Aging can be reached at 355-6716. They’re highly trained counselors are in the know. They will help you understand your benefits and provide you with free, unbiased information regarding plans for the upcoming year.

APPRISE is a free health insurance counseling program designed to help Pennsylvanians with Medicare. Counselors are specially trained volunteers who can answer your questions and provide you with objective, easy-to-understand information about Medicare, Medicare Supplement Insurance, Medicaid and Long-Term Care Insurance.