Medicare Annual Open Enrollment Period AEP 2016-2017

(This information concerns Medicare Health Plans. It does not concern you if you are either on an Employer-Sponsored Group Health Plan or an Individual & Family Health Plan. This information pertains only to California and may or may not apply to other states.)

Here are some common questions that we have been asked:

(A) When is the 2016-17 Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)?
For most people, Medicare AEP runs from Oct. 15th to Dec. 7th.
You may do the following during this time:
1. Enroll or change your Medicare Advantage plan (MA-PD).
2. Enroll or change your Medicare Rx (PDP) plan.
3. Enroll in a Medicare Supplement and a PDP plan (the supplement plan is not guarantee-issue unless you have a qualifying event).
Technically, AEP only applies to Medicare Advantage plan. These plans include Advantage MA-PD (Medicare Advantage-Prescription Drug, mostly HMO) plans as well as Advantage PDP (Prescription Drug Rx Plan) plans. These Advantage plans are regulated by CMS (the federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which is part of HHS, the federal Dept. of Health & Human Services). Medicare Supplement plans on the other hand, are regulated by the State’s Dept. of Insurance which does not have AEP’s and go by different rules.

(B) Can I Switch into a Medicare Supplement Plan from a Medicare Advantage HMO Plan during AEP?
Supplement plans may be purchased anytime, as long as you have Original Medicare Parts A & B. However, if you have an Advantage MA-PD plan currently, you must either have a qualifying event or get your Original Medicare Parts A & B back from your Advantage plan, before you can be allowed into a Supplement plan.
For those who have a Qualifying Event (QE), e.g. their Advantage plan is terminating or moving out of their area at year end, they have until Dec. 31st to enroll into a Medicare Supplement and PDP plan for a Jan. 1st effective date. I recommend that you enroll no later than Dec. 15 because of the holidays as well as the crushing workload of the insurance carriers.
For those without a QE, switching to a Supplement Plan is difficult and filled with pitfalls. This process should be started early in the Enrollment season (Oct. 15th), and handled very carefully with assistance from a knowledgeable Medicare insurance agent. It involves medical underwriting (approval based on health). There is no guarantee of approval by a Supplement carrier. And you must not enroll into a PDP plan before you have received approval from a Medicare Supplement carrier, otherwise your MA-PD plan may be cancelled, leaving you with no coverage except for A/B.

(C) Is Medicare Supplement Plan F going away?
CMS (Center for Medicare Medicaid Services) has announced this year that they will outlaw the sale of Medicare Supplement F, the most popular supplement plan, after 2020.
Those who will turn 65 after the year 2020 will unfortunately never be able to experience Plan F.
However, anyone who is already on an F plan at that time will be grandfathered and permitted to keep it indefinitely. (**Please see (E) below.)

(D) Are rates for frozen Supplement Plan F (after 2020) likely to skyrocket?
Some concerns were raised that the premium for F plans may skyrocket, after 2020, due to there being no future new entrants into the risk pool. Although this is a distinct possibility, it is unlikely to be a cause for alarm for the following reasons: (1) Unlike under age 65 plans, supplement plans are secondary payers (Medicare is the primary payer) and not subject to the brunt of the risk, (2) In the past when older supplement plans were frozen, such as the Anthem Classic J plan, there were no great increases in rates, (3) After the freezing of Plan F, other plans like G and N will still be available. Although these other plans are not as comprehensive as F, (4) The Birthday rule allows members to switch to like, or downgrade plans, guarantee-issue, every year, on their birthday month.
The practical implication is that seniors may keep plan F and take a wait and see attitude. If rates go out of line, then simply downgrade, guarantee-issue, on their next birthday.

(E) **Are there any instances where one can enroll into Supplement F after Jan. 2020?
This information has not been confirmed or published by CMS, but we were told by a couple of insurance carriers that CMS rules will allow someone to enroll into Plan F after Jan. 2020, if they were initially eligible for F before Jan. 2020.

(The above is purely informational. This information has not been approved by CMS. It is not to be used in sales. And should not be relied upon to make purchase decisions. We recommend that you consult a knowledgeable insurance agent before making any decisions.)

Phil Lee
Lee Health Insurance Services
[email protected]
Employee Benefits & Health Insurance

How to reduce Medicare Prescription Drug Costs Using Mail Order

We assisted a client in reducing her out of pocket costs for Medicare prescription drugs simply by switching from buying 30 day supplies from her her local pharmacy to using Express Scripts, the mail order service used by Anthem Blue Cross. Her projected annual expense for copay, co-insurance, deductible and premium for the next 12 months will drop from $1,971 to $1,099.
After you switch to mail order, the reduction may even allow you to downgrade to a less expensive prescription drug plan, increasing your savings.

Use the Medicare Rx calculator to compare drug plans:

Compare health plan rates at:

© Philip W Lee,,


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