The Greatest Time Of The Year Is Upon Us — It’s Insurance Season!

Question: There are commercials on TV and mail in my mailbox about changing my Medicare plan. When can I change my insurance? Do I have to change my insurance?

Answer: Oct. 1 is my favorite day of the year! It is here! Happy Insurance Season!

You can guess that Erin and I spent yesterday (YES, a Sunday!) looking into the different insurance options and evaluating how they have changed for 2018. My mailbox is always full of stuff, everyone is full of questions! My phone rings off the hook! Curiosity abounds about the coming year’s insurance! I am always curious, and you can probably tell excited!

Okay, I am Medicare Crazy! I LOVE The Annual Open Enrollment Period.

That is what you are asking about. This Annual Open Enrollment Period is your opportunity to evaluate your insurance options and switch to a plan that works better for you if you want to.

Each year there is an Annual Enrollment (Election) Period (AEP). The AEP begins Oct. 15 and lasts until Dec. 7. This is the period of time when you can make changes to your prescription drug coverage which may also impact your health insurance coverage. You can add prescription drug coverage, you may change the company you get your prescription drug coverage from, or change the way you get your prescription drug coverage. If you are not currently in a prescription drug plan, this is the period where you can join for the first time. If you are already in a prescription drug plan, you can switch to an alternate plan. Whatever change you make during this year’s AEP, it will take effect the first of the year (1-1-2018).

On Oct. 1, the companies are allowed to let everyone know what their insurance products are doing for the coming year (2018). The time frame allows the insurance companies an opportunity to send you your new plan information and insurance card before the first of the year. This AEP is your opportunity to research what coverage your current plan is offering you and compare that with what other insurance companies are doing.

This is significant because you MUST make a decision by 12-7-17. If you try to make a decision after 12-7-17 you will NOT be able to change your insurance. You must research your decision and complete the enrollment prior to 12-7-17.

Each of the companies will announce their insurance products beginning October 1st. That is why your mailbox is full of all of those insurance fliers, brochures and advertisements. The most important one to watch for is from your current company. Review the material they send to you and decide whether the changes to the plan still meet your needs. The other mailings you receive you can certainly review to see if they are of interest to you.

If you are interested in switching insurance products, you can research the options and then you have to decide (enroll) between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7, so the plan will begin on Jan. 1, 2018.

In summary, this Annual Enrollment Period gives us 53 days to make our changes. After you decide on your plan, the Dec. 7 end day allows time for everyone to get their new insurance cards prior to the start date of the insurance. The plans are announced on Oct. 1, so you have 14 days to do your research before the enrollment period begins, as well as during the 53 days. Just don’t wait too long to make your enrollment decision. If you make no decision or decide to stay with the plan you have, you don’t need to do anything. The plan you already have will roll over into 2018.

As we do every year we will be holding free informational training on the insurance products available in 2018. This year we are holding two free events so we have space for everyone who wants to come. The first is Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and the second session is Oct. 11 at 3:30 p.m. The information offered at both programs is the same, so we are asking individuals to attend only one program, so we have space for everyone who wants to come. The free informational programs will be held at Lutheran (715 Falconer St., Jamestown) in the Christ Chapel. The trainings will cover the overall changes to Medicare, Prescription Drug Plans and Medicare Advantage Plans in 2018. Reservations are required for this event, so call 720-9122 to make your reservation! The other piece of news that some of you may know is that I now have someone helping with the work we do, Erin Green. Erin is just as excited about Medicare Season and helping you with that as I am! Come help Erin & me celebrate the opening of Insurance Season!

To contact Janell Sluga, GCMC with questions or concerns, please call 720-9797 or e-mail at janells@lutheran-jamestown.org.

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