Miscellaneous Notes for November 2017

Annual Election Period (AEP)

The AEP, also known as Medicare open enrollment, runs from October 15 through December 7th. We are working hard to serve everyone. If you have contacted us via a paper response form or through PDPHelper.com, we appreciate your patience. We are making headway.

The AEP is the time when you can change your Medicare advantage (MA) or Part D prescription drug plan (PDP). If you have a Medicare supplement plan, you have the option to switch to an MA plan.


Special Election Period beginning December 8th

For those who have been disenrolled from an MA plan, you have lots of time to elect your new choice. Medicare has established a special enrollment period (SEP) that begins December 8th and runs through the end of February. For those affected, you can choose a new MA plan, or you can take advantage of the guarantee issue rules and enroll in Medicare supplement plans A, B, C, F, K, and L with no health qualifications. For more details, please refer to our article I Received a Disenrollment Letter: What Now?.


Changing a Medicare Supplement (Medsupp) plan

A question that comes up every year is when can I change my Medsupp plan. The answer is that you can change your Medsupp plan any month of the year subject to medical qualification. Please refer to the more detailed article, Have Your Medicare Supplement’s Rates Gone Up?.

A common misunderstanding among some people is thinking that the AEP is open enrollment for a Medsupp plan. Yes, it can be confusing. Remember, for most people, once you are past 65 ½, you can change your Medsupp plan any month of the year, again, subject to medical qualification.


News on the PDP front and hidden rate Increases

We have seen some minor changes regarding the Part D prescription plans. Some premiums have increased a few dollars here and there. One plan has a new lower premium and is quite competitive.

One of the ways that a plan makes a hidden rate increase is by moving a drug to a higher numbered tier.  For example, one plan from Best Buy Health (fictitious) has moved fenofibrate from a tier 2 generic to a tier 3 preferred brand. When fenofibrate was in the tier 2 category, it had a $4.00 copay and was excluded from the deductible.

Now that it’s a tier 3 drug, it’s subject to the $405 deductible. Let’s say that fenofibrate has a retail price of $10.00.  Last year you paid a $4.00 copay. If fenofibrate is your only tier 3 drug and all others are tier 1 and 2, then you pay $10.00 instead of $4.00 through the entire year. At $10.00 per month, you never meet the $405 deductible. Instead of paying $4.00, you now pay $10.00. A higher copay is a form of a rate increase.


Beating Advertising Anxiety

The large health insurance companies flood the air waves and your mailboxes this time of the year with their advertising. I have fielded several calls from clients that have expressed their anxiety that is caused by listening to or seeing print Medicare-related advertising. I just visited a home, and in the space of twenty minutes, I heard two Medicare related advertisements from a television in an adjoining room.

The fact that the advertising creates anxiety, shows its effectiveness, as that is exactly its intended purpose. To relieve your anxiety that they created, you dial the toll-free number prominently displayed on your screen. Help is now on the way…uh, well, not quite.

The best way to deal with it is to do whatever you can to limit your exposure to the psychological bombardment of your well-being from the ads. Throw the print stuff away, and mute your tv when the ads come. Please refer to our companion article in this issue titled Misleading and Deceptive Advertising.

If exposure to paint fumes, for example, makes you feel ill, what’s the obvious solution? You limit your exposure or avoid it altogether. If you know someone who you realize is a toxic person, you can limit or even cut-off your contact with that person.

I have a relative that has her tv on constantly. When I’m exposed to the tv when I visit her, I get a dose of just how manipulative the tv advertising can be. They’re playing with our minds all day long. I feel like I’m being exposed to a mental electric shock. And again, that’s why the advertisers spend billions every year hawking their products. End