Is Medicare Open Enrollment Really That Confusing?

Open Enrollment for Medicare is quickly approaching. Otherwise known as the “Annual Election Period” or AEP, the season to make changes to Medicare Advantage Plans and Prescription Drug Plans (Part D), runs from October 15 through December 7.

I read an article in the New York Times today that gives some good basic information about Medicare Open Enrollment (not to be confused with open enrollment for those under age 65), so I’m providing the link here.  The article is a little too dramatic by making the decisions facing seniors appear to be extremely confusing.  Words like “paralyzing”, “challenging”, and “mind-boggling” are used to describe the decision making process. That’s simply not true for the most part.  Yes, Medicare options can seem mind-boggling when someone if newly eligible for Medicare, but AEP is really not so complicated.

One very important piece of information was missing from the article!  There was no mention of seeking the advice of an experienced, independent agent.  Yes, there are changes each year — some plans are non-renewed while others are new to the market.  However, most independent agents (not affiliated with only one or two carriers) can make the process very simple.

We know the best plans available in each county.  Making an assessment of someone’s situation — reviewing medications, health history, providers, etc. — provides the necessary information to select the plan that best fits an individual’s needs and budget.

In Georgia, there are a few very strong Medicare Advantage plans that have excellent benefits and extensive POS or PPO networks. One of the newer plans — Aetna — offers a highly rated national PPO plan in many Georgia counties. There are a couple other zero-premium or low-premium Medicare Advantage plans in Georgia: Conventry, Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield are just a few others that fit this description.

In the aforementioned article, the author shares one of the weaknesses of Medicare Advantage (MA) plans: limited provider networks. It’s true that Medicare Supplement plans do not require beneficiaries to participate in a provider network, while MA plans are network-driven. However, there are many MA plans that offer more than just an HMO option.  As I stated above, there are MA plans that offer very good regional or national POS or PPO networks. In many cases, this is more than adequate for those on Medicare.  Most people are accustomed to plans that have networks.

It’s always a good idea to reassess your situation during open enrollment, whether you are on Medicare or not.  Working with a reputable advisor who offers both Medicare Supplement plans (Medigap) and Medicare Advantage plans can prevent people from feeling paralyzed and overwhelmed by the decision-making process.

Peachtree Insurance Advisors      Greg Sanders     678-236-1600