Last night Parsec celebrated our Parsec Prize recipients. The event served as a means to get members from each recipient organization together to thank them for their important work in the community. One of these organizations is the Council on Aging of Buncombe County. The Council on Aging is dedicated to promoting independence, dignity and wellness for older adults through education, innovative programming, and coordination of resources.
At the event the Director of the Council on Aging reminded us that the Medicare Annual Election Period is now open. We thought this information was useful enough to pass on. Below is helpful information the Council on Aging provided us about the election period. Please remember that situations vary and you should consult a Medicare expert if you have questions.
Medicare Annual Election Period
October 15 – December 7
The annual election period for Medicare is October 15th through December 7th. During this period, Medicare enrollees can make changes to their Medicare coverage. You may want to contact your Medicare eligible clients and remind them of the annual election period.
Prescription Drug – Part D Coverage. Many of your clients may be covered by prescription drug plans through Medicare. These drug plans all have different formularies and premiums. A formulary means that the plan will only cover certain drugs and if the consumer’s drugs are not on the formulary they will have to pay the full cost of the medication. The important thing to remember is that the formularies and premiums can change from year to year. It is highly recommended that the Medicare beneficiary review their drug plan coverage every year to make sure that their medications (usually maintenance drugs) continue on their plan’s formulary. They can do this at Medicare.gov webpage under Find Drug and Health Plans or call the Council on Aging for a no cost review of their plan. If they do not change by December 7th they are locked in for the next year.
Medicare Advantage Plan – Part C. Some of your clients may be enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. If they are happy with it, they don’t need to do anything and will be renewed into the same plan. If they are not happy, they can change Advantage Plans or go back to original Medicare. If they indicate that they are considering returning to original (traditional) Medicare, caution them that they must also chose a free standing drug plan or they will have not drug coverage for the following year. This has happened to several consumers with extremely negative financial consequences.
Medicare Supplements (Medigap) Perhaps most of your clients will have Medicare supplement policies that help pay for deductibles and coinsurance. A supplement policy can be change at any time and is NOT subject to the annual election period. If a consumer already has a policy and wants to change, they will probably have to submit a health statement (medical underwriting) and if the new carrier does not like what they see, they can deny coverage. Always caution your clients not to cancel their old policy until they have been accepted IN WRITING by the new carrier. Sometimes beneficiaries cancel their old policy as soon as they apply to another carrier and if they are turned down they may be left without any supplement as they may not be able to rescind the cancellation. A trustworthy insurance agent should be able to guide them through that process safely.
Private Insurance Exchanges. Some retirees have Medicare secondary coverage through former employers. Many of these employers are moving to private exchanges in which they contract with a large benefits management company to administer the program. The employer funds a Health Savings Account (HSA) to pay the premiums; however, if the retiree wants to use those funds to purchase a Medicare supplement policy, they must do so through the private exchange and may have a limited choice of companies and policies from which to choose. Failure to do so may result in the retiree not being able to pay for the supplement from the HSA. Caution clients in this arrangement to follow directions carefully.
Retiree Coverage. Some clients will have retiree health coverage and will not be able to make many choices. If this is the case, they need to be sure to respond to information requests from the retirement plan on a timely basis. If choices are available and they fail to respond, they may be continued with the same coverage or placed in a default plan.
If you have any questions please feel free to call John Wingerter at the Council on Aging. 828-277-8288. Be sure to say you are calling from Parsec Financial. Navigating the Medicare benefits can be tricky and might result in penalties or loss of coverage if the beneficiary is not careful.
For Medicare assistance, clients may be referred to:
Council on Aging of Buncombe County: 828-277-8288
Charlotte Senior Center: 704-522-6222
The Shepherd’s Center of Charlotte: 704-365-1995
Moore County Senior Enrichment Center: 910-215-0900
Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program of the NC Department of Insurance: 855-408-1212