By December 7, 2021 Open Enrollment Period is history. It is always a challenging and busy time. As we look at the past seven weeks, here are five observations.
1.) There was a significant reduction in the number of Part D drug plans alone.
In most areas, beneficiaries have nine to 10 fewer plans available in the next year. A company went from six plans to three. A family of plans that have long since merged with another company.
People who had one of the vanishing plans would be automatically enrolled in a new one chosen by the insurer, unless they switch. If they didn’t, some would be surprised, come January 1.
One company went from three plans to two. In one area of the country, it was the mid-$20 premium plan that disappeared and the two with premiums over $80 continued. The premium increase alone could cost beneficiaries $650 more in 2022. Based on my experience, many people with a lower premium plan opted for a plan from another company with a premium between $7 and $14, adding to their savings.
Unfortunately, many people probably did nothing. I know of one woman who didn’t change because it wasn’t worth the trouble.
2.) Changes in plans are possible between October 15 and December 7.
I talked to the woman who didn’t change. He had already got his new card by 1st December and felt it was too late. You can change plans till December 7 and thereafter.
3.) Preferred pharmacies do not always offer the lowest cost.
According to Medicare.gov, a preferred pharmacy “Agree to your plan to charge a lower fee,” meaning it has negotiated lower prices than those available at a standard or non-preferred pharmacy. This year, I found several examples of high cost at favorite pharmacies. Here is the most dramatic.
The total estimated drug and premium cost was $2,016 at a standard pharmacy and a difference of $3,141, $1,100 at a preferred pharmacy. The plan also had another preferred pharmacy with a total cost of $1,606. The beneficiary has opted for this scheme and shall ensure that he/she uses the second preferred pharmacy.
4.) Mail order isn’t the big deal it used to be.
Many years ago, it was possible to pay for two months and receive a three-month supply of drugs with mail-order service. That deal is basically gone. Mail order prices are usually higher than those of a preferred pharmacy, but there are more cases when the service is more expensive than at a retail pharmacy.
5.) Mail order isn’t the only option for getting three months’ supply.
Many retail pharmacies offer 60- and 90-day refills. If postal ordering isn’t cost-effective, consider this option.
It is also important to know what the open enrollment period is not.
- Open Enrollment is not meant for retirees to evaluate their coverage.
Retirees are enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, but their coverage is managed by the company or union where they worked. Each retirement plan establishes its own term or season for reviewing coverage and making changes.
I heard from many people with birthdays in November or December. They were so nervous because they figured they had to get a Part D drug or Medicare Advantage plan by December 7. Unless they are fully enrolled in Medicare (Part A, Part B, drug or Medicare Advantage plans), their deadlines are final. The day of his IEP. Then, once enrolled, they must make any changes to their medication or Advantage plan by December 7.
Persons who missed the chance to enroll can do so during normal enrollment period, January 1-March 31. Then, from April to June, they can choose a drug or Medicare Advantage plan and their coverage will be effective July 1.
- Open enrollment is not for reapplying for Medicare.
Once you are enrolled in Part A and Part B, there is no need to re-enroll each year.
To make sure you have the best and most cost-effective coverage, remember these three tips.
- Circle October 15th, the first day of open enrollment on your calendar.
- Review your annual notice of changes, especially noting that your current plan will not be available next year.
- Check out other plans even if you’re completely satisfied with what you have.