Understanding Your Medicare Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) Is Critical
Every September, your Medicare plan sends a letter in the mail called the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC). Your Plan ANOC lets you know how your current Part D drug plan or Medicare Advantage (MA) plan will change for the following year.
That’s right – Medicare drug plans and MA plans can make changes to your coverage, including raising the premium, increasing your deductible or copays, adjusting what drugs are in your formulary, and more.
Even if you loved your Medicare plan this year doesn’t mean you’ll love it next year.
Here’s what you need to know about reading your ANOC, what you can do about plan changes, and how to ensure you have great Medicare coverage for the following year.
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What Is an ANOC letter?
The ANOC letter, or your Annual Notice of Change, is a letter your Medicare plan will send each September. The ANOC explains any changes in coverage, costs, or network that will take effect on January 1st of the following year.
The ANOC letter is only for Medicare Part D drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans.
Note: Medicare Supplements, also called Medigap plans, are not included in the ANOC because the government standardizes the included benefits, which means Medigap benefits don’t change each year.
Important ANOC Timing
The ANOC letter will arrive sometime in September. You are allowed to make changes to your Part D plan or Medicare Advantage plan during the fall enrollment period, which lasts from October 15-December 7. Those changes go into effect on January 1st of the following year.
Understanding this timing is critical because here’s what often happens – we get a call from a frustrated individual in January. They explain that their medication used to cost $4 at the pharmacy, and now it costs $25!
At that point, it’s too late to make any plan changes.
You cannot switch Medicare Part D drug plans until the fall enrollment period (October 15-December 7).
In sum, pay attention to your ANOC and make sure you understand how your plan will be changing next year. If you don’t like the changes, it’s time to switch plans, and you need to do it between October 15th and December 7th.
What Should I Do with My ANOC Letter?
Sometime in September, you’ll receive your ANOC. Do not throw it away or discard it!
It will come from your Medicare plan. For example, if your Part D drug coverage is from SilverScript, it will come from SilverScript. If your Medicare Advantage plan is with Aetna, it will come from Aetna.
Read through your ANOC and ensure you understand all the changes. If you don’t, call us immediately – we can help you understand how your plan will be changing for the following year.
Here are potential changes you could experience:
- Premium increase
- Deductible increase
- Copay increase
- Coinsurance increase
- Network changes – your pharmacy or doctor is no longer in your network or is no longer a preferred provider
- Formulary changes – your medications are no longer covered or are in a different tier than before, meaning they’ll cost more at the pharmacy
- Changes to prior authorizations – you now must get special approval to fill certain medications
- Changes to referrals and managed care – you now need referrals from your primary care physician (PCP) to see specialists, or your plan may ask you to try cheaper treatment plans first, even if your doctor doesn’t recommend them
It’s common for drug plans to be dropped or revised, which can lead to automatic enrollment in a different drug plan from the same company. Last year, this happened to many clients, and they were moved from a $20 premium plan to a $55 premium plan.
It’s also common for a drug formulary to change, meaning a drug that costs you $5 this year could cost you $25 next year.
It’s critical to read through your ANOC and have a firm understanding of how you will be affected by your plan’s changes.
Even if you loved your plan this year, it doesn’t mean you’ll love it next year!
What Should I Do After Reading My ANOC Letter?
After reading through your ANOC and seeing how your plan will change for the following year, it’s always a good idea to run a new plan comparison. You can start running comparisons for next year’s plans on October 1st, and you can actually enroll in a new plan beginning October 15th.
Even if your plan isn’t changing, or you’re OK with the changes, you should shop the market and ensure you still have the best plan for you.
New carriers and plans are released every year, and competition is a great thing! There may be a plan in your area with a lower premium or richer benefits, and you should take full advantage of that.
You can run a Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage comparison on Medicare.gov by yourself, or you can reach out to us here at Sams/Hockaday for help.
We run plan comparisons daily and can help you understand many essential details that will affect your out-of-pocket costs next year.
Medicare plans change, and you should ensure you’re always in the most competitive plan for your needs and budget. Our licensed agents at Sams/Hockaday can make it simple by running a free plan comparison.
Ensure you’re happy with your Medicare plan for next year by giving us a call at 217-423-8000 or scheduling an appointment online. You can change your drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan from October 15-December 7, so don’t delay!
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