Are you enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan? If so, this article is for you. We’re diving into the topic of switching Advantage plans during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). We’ll teach you how to switch plans during the AEP with a simple step-by-step process, plus show you how to decide if you need to switch Advantage plans during the AEP. Let’s get started. 

Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)

If you’re on an Advantage plan, you’ll receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) every single year around the 1st of October. By law, your private insurance company has to send this ANOC out before the Annual Enrollment Period. The ANOC discloses all the changes that will take place to your Advantage plan in the coming year. Why is this important?

Advantage companies have the right to change anything they want in a plan. This means the plan that worked for you this year may no longer be a good fit next year.  Unfortunately, many people don’t bother to read the ANOC, so they’re unaware of the changes to their plans until it’s too late. What do we mean by too late?

If you don’t switch to a new plan during the AEP (from October 15th through December 7th), then you’ll have to stay on that plan until next year’s AEP. So if you don’t read your ANOC and simply wait to find out about your plan’s changes until January 1st when they go into effect, you’re putting yourself at risk of being stuck in a plan that doesn’t work for your needs. 

When you get your Annual Notice of Change in the mail, open it up, and ask the following questions:

    • Has my premium changed? If they changed your premium, how much more will you have to pay, and are you comfortable paying this extra amount? 
    • Have they changed any of the copayments or coinsurance? Right now you may see your doctor for $10 but next year it could be $20 or $50. Or they may start charging you a percentage (coinsurance) of the Medicare-approved cost. If so, make sure you’re comfortable paying these extra costs. 
    • Has the network changed? Advantage plan networks dictate which doctors and health care facilities/providers you can visit. Always check the ANOC to make sure your health providers are still included in the network. 
  • Are your medications still covered by the plan? Medications can add up very quickly, so it’s important to find out if yours are still covered by your Advantage drug plan. If not, you may have to consider looking for a new plan. 
  • Are the perks still included? Many Advantage plans offer perks like dental, vision, hearing aids, and gym memberships. If your plan’s perks are important to you, check the ANOC to make sure they’re still included in next year’s plan. 

If after carefully reviewing your ANOC, you’re still happy with your Advantage plan, there’s nothing else you have to do. You will automatically be renewed in the Advantage plan for next year.  

Switching Advantage Plans During the Annual Enrollment Period

If you’ve decided your Advantage plan will no longer work for you and you want to switch to a new plan, you can only do so during the Annual Enrollment period. This enrollment window lasts from October 15th through December 7th, but we would suggest doing it sooner than later. Here’s an easy step-by-step guide to help you through the process of switching Advantage plans during the Annual Enrollment Period. 

Step 1: Go to Medicareschool.com/AEP

First, go to Medicareschool.com/AEP. You can also go to Medicare.gov. Both sites use the same managing company, but Medicare.gov does not offer any enrollment assistance. If you want free enrollment assistance, go through Medicareschool.com/AEP.  

Step 2: Set Up an Account/Sign In

The next step is to set up an account. You’ll do this by filling in basic information like your name, address, date of birth, and your Medicare number. If you’ve already set up an account, then just put in your username and password.

Step 3: Enter Medications & Choose Pharmacy 

Once you've set up your account and/or signed in, you’ll select your medications. If you already have an account, make sure your medications are updated to reflect your current needs. Next, you’ll choose your pharmacy. 

If you're happy with your current pharmacy, simply confirm it. If you would like to switch pharmacies, then find and select a new one. After you've entered this information, you are free to shop and compare plans. 

Step 4: Shop Options & Switch if Necessary 

Our software will look at all the Advantage plans in your zip code based on your medications and pharmacy. It will then display anywhere from 20 to 40 different plans available in your market. The plans will be organized from top to bottom based on coverage and costs. You’ll be able to see if your meds are covered, what the cost of your co-pays will be, and how much you’ll pay in premiums. 

Once you found a plan you like, the next step is to ensure all your health providers are in the plan’s network. This includes doctors, specialists, and hospitals. If your providers are not in the network, we would advise you to scroll down and find another plan that includes them in its network. 

Step 5: Connect with a Medicare School Guide

If you don’t want to navigate this process yourself, you can get free help from one of our Medicare School Guides. Medicare School Guides are highly trained in all Medicare markets and are familiar with hundreds of different plans on the market. They can assess your needs and help you find the best Advantage plan for your needs. 

Click here to make an appointment online with one of our guides, or call 800.864.8890 to get immediate assistance from someone that can walk you through the whole process. Keep in mind, if you choose to use one of our guides, there is absolutely no cost to you. Insurance companies always pay us for providing these services, and it is our privilege to walk you through the switching plans process. 

 
 
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