Medicare’s Annual Open Enrollment (October 15 to December 7) and using the Medicare.gov website is always an interesting time for us and all those with Medicare. This year as we arrived on October 15 and the website was live, there were two insurance companies, ExpressScripts and Cigna plan pricing details indicated N/A. When reaching out to find out why, I was informed that the computer programing for these two companies was listing inaccurate pricing, so was taken down. That information was corrected and reintroduced on October 25, ahead of the scheduled date.
As we began our day on Monday October 26, we could see the data. When the medicare.gov website is working well it makes looking for insurance a lot easier. When it isn’t working properly, which usually happens at least once during Open Enrollment, my advice is to take a deep breath, turn off your computer and find a different project to work on. Usually within a reasonable period of time, the information is updated and the website is working properly.
You also have the option of call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). This customer service line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So if ever you have difficultly using the website, use the customer service number. If you have questions relating to Medicare coverage of any type, you can call this number. If you want to review a claim, or ask about coverage, you can call this number.
When the website was giving us that N/A for the drug pricing information, I called the 1-800-MEDICARE number and they explained what was happening and the projected fix date. That was helpful information for me to have. It also allowed me to take a breath, and work on a different project. Although, at this time of year we do a lot of evaluating the Medicare Drug Plan options. That could still be done, and if those two companies did not impact the decision making we could move forward and make a decision for 2021. If one of those two plans were in the running for the best coverage available, we simply set it aside and can look at it later.
It is important to remember that Medicare Open Enrollment runs from October 15 to December 7 each year. You still have time to make your decision. With computers being what they are and sometimes not working as well as we would like, I always recommend starting early, so that you have time to work through any bumps that may come along.
During this Annual Open Enrollment Period, if you enroll in a plan that you feel is the best and then something changes, like a medication or the information available, you can do a second (or third or fourth) enrollment. Medicare will hold as your final choice during this period of time, October 15 to December 7 as your final choice. I do not recommend using this time to make multiple enrollments, but sometimes circumstances require us to do that.
It is also important that many of New York State seniors have EPIC (Elderly Pharmacy Insurance Coverage) and being a member of EPIC means you have a Special Enrollment Period each year to change your Prescription Drug coverage any time of the year.
If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, you also have the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period which is January 1 to March 31. So you may have additional opportunities to work through this decision.
Remember that I never recommending waiting until the last minute!
Happy Insurance Season!
Senior Life Matters is a community based program sponsored by Lutheran Jamestown. For questions, concerns or to reach Janell Sluga, GCMC, call us at 716-720-9797 or e-mail at SLM@lutheran-jamestown.org