It may be the height of summer, but before you know it, you’ll be getting your Annual Notice of Change letter from your Medicare Insurance company. It may not seem very exciting, but this is an important letter that will help you make choices about your Medicare coverage for the coming year. Need help understanding it, or what you should do with it? No problem, let’s review it together!
What Is An Annual Notice Of Change Letter?
First of all, you might be wondering what a Medicare Annual Notice of Change Letter is, especially if this is your first year in Medicare. Simply put, this letter is a summary of any changes to a Medicare Plan for the New Year.
Who Receives A Medicare Annual Notice Of Change Letter?
You will receive an Annual Notice of Change, also known as ANOC, letter if you receive any benefits apart from Original Medicare. Plans that are not a part of Original Medicare include:
- Medicare Advantage plans
- Prescription Drug Plans
- Other less commons plans like Medicare Cost plans
You will not receive an ANOC letter for your Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plan.
Who Sends The Medicare Annual Notice Of Change Letter?
Your Medicare plan will send the ANOC letter. It does not come from Medicare or CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that administers Medicare).
What Does My ANOC Letter Tell Me?
Your Medicare Annual Notice of Change letter contains a lot of important information about your coverage. You will want to look at it carefully to see what it will be like to have and use your plan for the next year. The letter will highlight any changes that will have an effect on how much you pay for coverage or services, and any changes to the in-network status of your doctors and facilities. Specifically, your ANOC letter will inform you of any:
- Premium changes
- Cost sharing (co-payment or co-insurance) changes
- Out of pocket maximum (OOPM) amount changes
- Network changes (doctors, specialists, facilities that will not be covered in the new plan year)
- Changes to the drug formulary (the list of medications covered by plan)
- Changes to extra benefits provided by the plan
In short, the ANOC letter lets you know if your out of pocket costs are going up, down, or staying the same. It’s an important letter, because you could decide to change your coverage based on the changes to your plan.
When Will I Receive My Medicare Annual Notice Of Changes Letter?
You will get your letter from your insurance company in September, before the Annual Open Enrollment Period (AEP) starts in October.
What Should I Do With The Information In My ANOC Letter?
Now that you know what the ANOC is, when you’ll get it, and who’s sending it to you, it’s time to talk about what to do with it. What will the information help you do?
For starters, you should know that you might not need to do anything at all. If you’re pleased with the plan and there are no major changes outlined in the letter, you can consider keeping your coverage as-is.
On the other hand, if your ANOC letter discloses premium increases, cost-sharing increases, and coverage changes that take doctors or other providers out of your network, then you should use this as an opportunity to look at other plans. You get the letter in advance of AEP so that you have time to find a plan that might better suit your needs.
When Should You Consider Making A Plan Change?
Like we said before, minor changes may not necessitate finding a new plan. But, if your costs increase every year by a little bit, that can add up over time. If you feel like your plan just isn’t a good fit any more, it may be time to switch. Here are some situations where a change in plan may be called for.
Your Doctors Won’t Be In-Network For The New Year
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan and your Primary Care Physician (PCP) won’t be in-network in the future, you should strongly consider finding a new plan. In this case, you’ll want to find a new plan that your doctor will accept.
The same goes for specialists and facilities like hospitals and labs. If you’re notified that your current providers won’t be in-network, then take this is a chance to find a new plan that will better fit your needs.
Your Medications Won’t Be Covered
A huge clue that you should consider making a change in coverage is if you’re notified that a medication you take will no longer be covered by your plan. Or, if you’re notified that a medication you take will be more expensive in the upcoming year. In this case, you’ll want to see if you can find a plan that will cover your medications for less than you’re currently paying, or are scheduled to pay in the New Year.
Your Costs Are Going Up
Your ANOC letter will tell you if your out of pocket costs will be increasing for the next year. This can take the form of:
- Monthly premiums
- Co-insurance and/or co-payments
- Out of Pocket Maximum (OOPM) amounts
Not all increases are equally important. A small increase in one area may not matter to you. Or, an increase for a service you’re unlikely to use may not make it worth switching plans. But, increases in areas you’re likely to use, like co-payments to see your Primary Care Physician or trusted specialists can be a cause for concern. If this happens to you, consider finding a new plan.
What To Look For In A New Plan
Once you’ve reviewed your Medicare Annual Notice of Change letter and decided that you’re interested in finding a different plan, you’ll want to find one that meets all of your needs. It might go without saying, but if you’re shopping for a new plan because of network changes, make sure that your doctors and preferred facilities accept the new plan you’re looking at. Don’t move to a new plan just so save some money on your monthly premium, only to find out that your doctors don’t take it.
Besides network issues, check a potential new plan for other benefits you might not currently have. If you’re looking for a Medicare Advantage plan, look for extra benefits like:
If you use these services, try to find a plan that has the best combination of working with your doctors, covering your medications, extra benefits, and affordable premiums.
On the other hand, if you’d like to avoid the issue of plan networks and referrals completely, consider looking into Medicare Supplement Insurance. Medicare Supplement, or Medigap as it’s also known, offers comprehensive coverage that can lower your out of pocket costs for services and procedures in exchange for higher monthly premiums. The best part about Medicare Supplement Insurance is that you can see any doctor in the country that takes Medicare patients. This gives many people peace of mind.
Get Help Finding A Plan
If the idea of looking at plan networks, drug formularies and co-pays turns your stomach, consider getting professional help. An independent insurance agent can do all the heavy lifting for you. Whether you’re looking for Medicare Advantage, Prescription Drug, or Medicare Supplement Insurance plans, an independent agent can help you review the plans available in your area, compare quotes, and even enroll in the plan of your choice. Reach out today to get started for free.