Check Your Mail: Changes to the 2018 Medicare Open Enrollment Period Mailings

Check Your Mail: Changes to the 2018 Medicare Open Enrollment Period Mailings

September 10, 2018

By: The My Medicare Matters Team of the National Council on Aging

It’s time a year again! Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period (OEP) is almost here, starting October 15th and ending December 7th. If you’re already enrolled in a Medicare plan this is the time of year where you can re-evaluate your coverage to make sure you are still enrolled in the best plan for your needs.

Over the next few weeks, leading up to and during the Medicare OEP you’ll receive notices from your current Medicare plan, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and advertisements from other Medicare companies claiming to offer the best plans. All this information can be overwhelming and as tempting as it may be to lump is with the junk mail and throw it away, that may not be the best idea. There are a lot of changes occurring with Medicare this year and to stay informed you need to review all the notices provided by your insurance company and CMS.

One of the most immediate changes impacts the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plan notification policies. Plans will no longer mail copies of the Evidence of Coverage to beneficiaries. Instead, the Evidence of Coverage will be available online and a hard copy must be requested. Here’s a list of notifications and resources which you should review and/or request as you prepare for Medicare Open Enrollment:

  • The Annual Notice of Change (ANOC), a 10+ page document sent out to people enrolled in a Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Part D The ANOC is sent by your Medicare plan and includes any changes to your current plans coverage, costs, or service area effective January 2019. Insurance companies can make changes every year that may increase your out-of-pocket cost or decrease your benefits, so it’s important to review this document thoroughly. You should receive this notice by September 30, if not contact your plan directly.
  • The Evidence of Coverage is 140+ page document that contains a detailed overview of what your current plan covers, cost, and more.  Beginning in 2018, Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Part D plans are no longer required to mail hard copies of the Evidence of Coverage to Medicare plan enrollees.  Instead, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans are required to publish the EOC on their website by October 15.
  • Plans are required to mail a printed notice called the Notification of Electronic Materials to all enrollees explaining how to obtain hard copies of plan materials routinely available on the plan’s website (EOC, provider directories and formularies). The notice must list the plan’s website, the date the documents will be available on the website, and a phone number to request hard copies of the EOC, plan provider directories and/or plan formularies.
  • Medicare & You Handbook is sent by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in late September. This handbook contains lots of useful information about when Medicare covers certain services, including preventive care, medical equipment and supplies and much more. If you don’t receive one by the second week in October, call 1-800-Medicare to get another copy with your state’s specific plan information, or go to the Medicare site to view the general information online.

Additional Medicare Notifications

  • Notice of Plan Termination/Reassignment Notice. If your Medicare Part D or Extra Help plan will no longer be available in 2019, the CMS will send you this blue notification. You will have the option of selecting a new drug plan for the new year or being reassigned to one by CMS. Your decision must be made before December 31st.
  • The Consistent Poor Performer Notice is sent to individuals enrolled in a Medicare plan that has received an overall star rating of less than 3 stars for at least three years. Plans with less than 3 stars are considered poor quality and it’s recommended that you switch to a 4.5 or 5-star rated plan during the Medicare OEP. If you choose to remain enrolled in your plan during the OEP you can switch any time of the year using a Special Enrollment Period for lower rated plans.

All of these documents should be reviewed thoroughly to help you decide if your current plan still meets your needs for the upcoming year. If you haven’t already done so, consider going paperless this year. You can start by creating a account to receive all notices via email. Then, call your plan to learn about their paperless options. You can find their customer service phone number on your insurance card.

To get help finding a Medicare plan that fits your needs try taking our Medicare Questionnaire, which can connect you to free professional advice about Medicare from a licensed benefits advisor. Make sure you check back on this blog for more information about the Open Enrollment Period and subscribe to our mailing list for more Medicare tips and guides.