Medicare notice is forthcoming; the message will outline changes to plan

If you have either a Medicare Advantage HMO or a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan, you should be receiving the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) [pronounced a-knock] sometime within the next few weeks.
The Annual Notice of Change is a required document sent out by the insurance plans. The law required this to be mailed no later than Sept. 30, with most companies waiting until the last minute.

There is good cause to wait, because this is the first time the benefits for your plan are made public. Of course, the benefits have been tied up in proposals and Federal approvals for months, but now each company can see what the other is offering. Technically, the ANOC is distributed only to current policyholders.

The rest of us don’t have access until Oct. 1, when the data become available online. I like to get as big an advanced look as possible, because it facilitates planning for the coming year. One of the downsides of the ANOC is that it only discloses what will change in your plan. Very often, it might disclose many improvements.

My spies have already informed me that there will be an enhancement in benefits, with few take-backs. The interesting thing is that people do not seem to recognize that some companies may offer and provide even more, often for less cost. An example might be in the HMO benefit for non-emergency transportation.

One company is announcing an increase in the number of free rides.
They do not emphasize that it has a limited mileage, making the benefit
worthless to some of us in the Kern Valley who need to see medical specialists in Bakersfield.

Another company offers an unlimited number of trips and unlimited mileage — perfect for the person requiring dialysis several times a week.
What the public may not get is that both these plans use the same primary care doctors and specialists. We must look at the entire picture, not just what a single plan is professing. My office uses a system of reviewing current clients annually, seeking improvements for them.

I develop my in-house worksheet, which lays the benefits side-by-side, making plan comparisons easy. While making plan changes is relatively easy during the Annual Enrollment Period (Oct. 15 to Dec. 7), it is not profitable for the agent.

The commission structure is identical between plans, so there is no incentive to move clients. Movement is justified only if it will improve the
client’s benefits. What makes this annual endeavor worthwhile is that
each year I get new business from people whose agents do not provide service.

I love building business from other agents’ greed of receiving payment from insurance companies for not doing their job! One last comment: The
ANOC also discloses if a person is losing a benefit or will have a reduction in coverage. Often this is very relevant and overlooked. California has a law that allows a person experiencing a cut in benefits of as little as 15% to be able to get out of the Medicare Advantage Plan and return to original
Medicare, and then get a Supplement with guaranteed issue — no medical
questions!

People who signed on to the HMO because they were attracted to the $0 monthly premium often get discouraged by the requirement of
referrals and the long wait for appointments. Choice of specialists is also limited, so for some, original Medicare and a Supplement provide the
flexibility and freedom of choice they need

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