The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is almost upon us! It begins October 15th and runs through December 7th of every year. It’s the time when Medicare eligible folks get bombarded with phone calls, mail and television commercials.
So why is AEP so special?
It’s a time when you can move from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, a Medicare Supplement to a Medicare Advantage and visa versa, change insurance carriers, or even change your prescription drug plan. Any plan you change to will have a prospective effective date of January 1.
Of course, if you are becoming eligible for the first time OR have a special enrollment period (for examples a loss of group insurance or a change of residency) during these AEP dates, your choices will be for the remainder of 2021 if applicable and then again for 2022. With these types of life events, you should ask if your 2021 plan choice is renewable for 2022. Work with your agent to ensure a seamless transition.
In the past, field agents would physically visit your home and go over plans but because of COVID, Medicare agents must be more creative and still give you the top-notch service in which you are accustomed. One way is to be prepared to receive an email with the plan information on it. You may follow along online or receive the materials via email.
You may be asked to view the agent’s desktop through a third-party internet vendor. You may also be asked to do what is called a telephonic signature or a voice signature where the insurance carrier may call you directly to verify your conversation and choice of plan.
There is also a wet signature option but you should not request one within two weeks of December 7th in case it doesn’t get to the carrier on time. With LifePlan Financial, we strive to accommodate you with the method you feel the most comfortable and we will follow up to ensure that the plan you want is the plan you get for 2022.
Unfortunately, AEP is also a time fraught with scams and unscrupulous tactics. Although insurance carriers and Medicare severely restrict these practices, there are times that these practices still occur. We recommend taking the following precautions:
Never give your Medicare Beneficiary Identification number out to anyone over the phone – that’s the number on your Medicare red, white and blue card – who you don’t know or haven’t solicited yourself.
If in doubt, ask the caller to tell you what agency they work for and tell them that you will call back, after you do a Google search to find out about them. If you still want to do business with them, then call them directly.
Never feel rushed – a good agent or broker will always take time to answer questions and make sure you know your plan. You have the right to stop the presentation at any time and ask for clarification or even say that you are uncomfortable with the conversation. You have the right to say no.
Always get the name of the person you are talking to – a licensed agent will never hesitate to give you their name and license number. Get their phone number too before you talk to them.
Phone calls to you may not always pick up the correct caller ID normally, never mind a deliberate spoofing. This is when the caller ID is deliberately misleading to you. For more information, please read this https://www.fcc.gov/spoofing
Never be disrespected – a good agent who has your best interests at heart would never say anything to you that would make you feel badly.
Be wary of callers who say they are “with” an insurance carrier. Ask them if they work for only that insurance carrier. Ask them for the main call back number of the company, not their number. You can Google the phone number to see if it belongs to the carrier. You can verify if they have an agent working for them if you want to take it the next level.
Always ask for everything in writing – you can ask them for an email with the Summary of Benefits, a hard enrollment book sent to your address or an application. A reputable agent will be able to send you the information you need to make the best decision for you.
Never feel intimidated to sign anything. If you feel uncomfortable in any situation, say so. If the agent continues, tell them you are ending the conversation.
Always ask if your doctors are in the network of the specific plan you are considering to avoid problems later. Also ask to have your agent look up your prescriptions as well. If an agent refuses, find another.
If you're looking for more Medicare resources, you can download our free Medicare checklist that guides you through what we recommend bringing to a meeting with your broker and important questions to ask. Click here to learn more.