Medicare Open Enrollment: 7 Essential Tools for Understanding 2017 Medicare Enrollment

April 24, 2017

If you're reading this in October, Medicare Open Enrollment is beginning again, and for many, that means changes to your healthcare plan. Even if you're already a Medicare patient, there are numerous plans that change or simply stop existing each year, so it's important to stay up to date with Medicare changes.

The 2017 Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plan annual Open Enrollment Period (AEP) begins today, October 15th and continues through December 7th.

During the next seven weeks, you will have the opportunity to add, change, or drop your Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

If you are satisfied with your current 2016 Medicare Part D plan or Medicare Advantage plan coverage – and you understand how your Medicare plan is changing in 2017 - you do not need to do anything and you will be automatically re-enrolled into your Medicare plan along with any changes your plan may have made for 2017.

However, as a note of caution … if your current 2016 Medicare plan is being discontinued or not offered in 2017, you may not have 2017 Medicare plan coverage – unless you enroll in a new plan.  On the other hand, some 2016 Medicare plans will be consolidated and 2016 plan members are being automatically “crosswalked” or merged into a different 2017 Medicare plan – with potentially different plan coverage.  Be sure to review your plan’s Annual Notice of Change letter to learn more about your 2017 Medicare plan coverage.  You can click here to see an article with examples of 2017 Medicare plan reassignments and mergers.

1. Compare 2017 Medicare plans by drug coverage and costs.

There are three different tools you can use to check coverage of your prescription drugs:

2017 Formulary Browser

Allows you to browse through all 2017 Medicare prescription drug plan formularies or drug lists.  You can click on the cost-sharing values of any medication to see the costs difference between using a preferred network pharmacy or a standard (non-preferred) network pharmacy.  (Please note, as in the past, this browser is not currently showing any 2017 formulary information for sanctioned Medicare Part D plans.)

2017 Drug Finder

Allows you to quickly see how all Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plans in your area are covering a particular prescription drug.  Our Drug Finder details include average negotiated retail drug prices and usage management restrictions (such as Quantity Limits or Prior Authorization requirements).

2017 Long-Term Care (LTC) Drug Finder

Provides a simple way to compare drug usage management restrictions for the top LTC medications found on Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) $0 premium Medicare Part D plans along with Institutional Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plans (SNPs).

2. Review all 2017 Medicare Part D prescription drug plans in your area.

If you wish to see an overview of all stand-alone 2017 Medicare Part D prescription drug plans (PDPs) offered in your state, then you can use the PDP-Finder.  We provide a unique collection of prescription drug plan details including information on drug tier co-payments, initial deductibles, monthly premiums, Part D plan IDs, Donut Hole or Gap coverage, formulary size, and Medicare plan quality star ratings.  Click on the plan name or “Benefits & Contact Info” for more information about the specific Medicare PDP.

3. Review all 2017 Medicare Advantage plans in your area.

Medicare Advantage plans combine your Medicare hospitalization coverage (Medicare Part A), outpatient coverage (Medicare Part B) - and may provide your Medicare prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D), dental, vision, and fitness center coverage.  In some areas, Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug coverage are offered with a $0 monthly premium and a $0 initial deductible.  You can use the 2017 MA-Finder for searching and comparing all Medicare Advantage plans across the country by plan features.  Since Medicare Advantage plans are offered on a county-by-county basis, begin by entering your ZIP code.  Click on the “Benefits & Contact Info” button for more information about a specific Medicare Advantage plan.  You can click here for an example of $0 premium Medicare Advantage plans that include prescription drug coverage (MAPDs) in New York, NY – just change the ZIP code to see the plans in your area.  (Please note, CMS did not release the 2017 Medicare Advantage plan health benefit details this year and we are working to find an alternative source to bring you this information.)

4. See how your 2016 Medicare Part D plan or Medicare Advantage plan is changing in 2017.

Changes to your existing 2016 Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Part D prescription drug plan coverage were explained in your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) letter that you should have received from your current Medicare plan.  However, if you would like a quick overview of how any current Medicare plan is changing in 2017, please use our 2016/2017 Medicare Part D plan comparison tool, PDP-Compare or use our 2016/2017 Medicare Advantage plan comparison tool, MA-Compare.  You will also see the Medicare Part D plans or Medicare Advantage plans merged, discontinued, or introduced in 2017.  If you are unsure where to begin, you can click here for an example of a 2016/2017 Texas Medicare Part D plan comparison.

5. Review Medicare Part D plans qualifying for the Low-Income Subsidy $0 Premium.

The PDP-Finder also offers information for Medicare beneficiaries qualifying for financial Extra-Help and may be particularly helpful to advocates and nursing homes.  If you are just seeking Medicare Part D plans that have monthly premiums completely covered by your state’s Low-Income Subsidy, you can narrow your plan search by choosing “Yes, show only plans that qualify for the $0 Premium” option.  Click the link for an example of all 2017 Part D plans in California qualifying for the LIS $0 premium.  In both our Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage Plan Finders, you can also choose the “LIS Subsidy Amount” and the monthly Medicare plan premiums will be adjusted based on your selected level of Extra Help.

6. If you are ready to enroll in a new 2017 Medicare plan . . .

If you have already reviewed your 2017 Medicare plan options and are ready to enroll in a new Medicare plan, you can call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and enroll directly through a Medicare representative. The Medicare representative can process your enrollment into any Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan directly over the telephone and the process only takes a few minutes.  Be sure to record and keep your enrollment confirmation code in a safe place.

If you decide to change Medicare plans, you do not need to disenroll from your existing 2016 plan when joining your new 2017 Medicare plan -- your newly chosen 2017 plan will automatically contact your 2016 plan and handle the enrollment change.

7. Finally, remember there is no need to rush into a decision.

You have plenty of time to choose a 2017 Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan.  Again, if you need assistance, please contact a local advocate or call a Medicare representative at 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227) for assistance.

MD at Home provides physician housecall visits to homebound patients in the Chicagoland area. Our services are covered by Medicare, so make sure to schedule a home visit today if you're in need of a housecall doctor!

Featured Posts

Recent Posts

Find by Category

Follow Us