Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Offers Tips for Navigating Medicare’s Annual Election Period

<0> Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in WisconsinScott Larrivee, 262-523-4746Twitter: orDoug Bennett Jr., 502-889-2103 </0>

For many Wisconsin seniors, the time is now to make important decisions about Medicare. These decisions will be made in family rooms, at sales seminars, at retail stores and over the Internet.

Medicare’s annual election period (AEP) began Oct. 15 and continues through Dec. 7. It is the time each year when most Medicare beneficiaries have an opportunity to select or change their medical or prescription drug coverage.

There is much to consider during this time, according to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin, which offers the following tips for those navigating AEP.

Medicare is a government-run health insurance program for those 65 or older and those with certain disabilities. It has several parts. Part A covers inpatient services, including hospital stays, while Part B covers outpatient medical services, such as doctor visits. Together, Parts A and B are sometimes referred to as “Original Medicare.” Most people choose additional insurance to pay expenses not covered by Original Medicare. One option is Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage (MA), which combines Parts A and B into a single plan run by private insurance companies. Members may add Part D (prescription drug) to their MA plan to have one source for all of their health care coverage. More than 13 million Americans, or roughly 26 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries, have chosen to enroll in a MA plan. These plans may include additional premiums.

As mentioned, AEP is when most people pick or change plans. Once a plan is selected, they might not be able to change it for a year, with a few exceptions. A “disenrollment period” occurs between Jan. 1 and Feb. 14 when members can disenroll from a MA plan, return to Original Medicare, and add or drop drug coverage. Additionally, there are “special election periods” for those who qualify because of factors such as losing their plan or moving to a new area.

People who already have a Medicare plan receive a document by Sept. 30 known as the Annual Notice of Change or ANOC. The ANOC lists changes to the plan for the upcoming year. It’s important for members to take note of these changes and how they will impact their cost and coverage. Those who are OK with the changes can keep their coverage by taking no action.

People who are thinking about changing their coverage should shop around. MA premiums, benefits and special offers vary by plan so there is a lot to compare.

Companies like Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield try to meet people wherever they are most comfortable. Agents can talk to applicants over the telephone or come to their homes. They also are available at some retail store locations and at community sales seminars. The technologically-inclined can also visit online stores like .

Some beneficiaries with limited income may qualify for “extra help” to pay prescription drug costs, such as premiums, deductibles and coinsurance. Visit or call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY) for details. Applicants also will be screened for state programs that could help with other Medicare costs.

By following these tips during AEP, beneficiaries can be comfortable that they’ve selected a plan with the coverage they need at a fair price.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the trade name of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin (BCBSWi), which underwrites or administers the PPO and indemnity policies; Compcare Health Services Insurance Corporation (Compcare), which underwrites or administers the HMO policies; and Compcare and BCBSWi collectively, which underwrite or administer the POS policies. Independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. ®ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Additional information about Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin is available at . Also, follow us on Twitter at , on Facebook at , or visit our YouTube channel at .