Q1Medicare.com Reminds Seniors that October 15 begins the 2012 Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage Plan Annual Open Enrollment Period

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Q1Medicare.com reminds seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries that the 2012 Medicare Part D prescription drug and Medicare Advantage plan annual Open Enrollment Period begins one month earlier this year, starting on Saturday, October 15, 2011. Also starting this year, the annual enrollment period will end several weeks earlier on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - instead of December 31 as in previous years. During the 2012 Open Enrollment Period, seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries can join a new 2012 Medicare prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan, drop their Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, return back to Original Medicare from their Medicare Advantage plan, or change their existing Medicare Part D prescription drug or Medicare Advantage plan coverage.

Q1Medicare.com reminds seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries that the 2012 Medicare Part D prescription drug and Medicare Advantage plan annual Open Enrollment Period begins one month earlier this year on Saturday, October 15, 2011. The annual enrollment period will also end several weeks earlier this year on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - instead of December 31 as in previous years.

During the 2012 Open Enrollment Period, seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in a new Medicare prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan, drop their Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, return back to Original Medicare from their Medicare Advantage plan, or change their existing Medicare prescription drug or Medicare Advantage plan coverage. Any 2012 Medicare plan changes made between October 15 and December 7 will take effect on January 1, 2012.

To help seniors get an overview of their 2012 plan options, Q1Medicare.com now offers their Medicare Advantage plan finder (MA-Finder.com/2012) and Medicare Part D prescription drug plan finder (PDP-Finder.com/2012). Starting October 1, the Medicare.gov Plan Finder also comes online and companies offering 2012 Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans can begin to market their new plans.

As with previous years, Medicare beneficiaries also have the option of making no changes during the 2012 Open Enrollment Period and they will be automatically re-enrolled into their existing 2011 Medicare plan for another year, along with any changes that their current Medicare plan may have made for 2012. To see details of how an existing 2011 Medicare plan is changing next year, current Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plan members are sent an Annual Notice of Change letter (or ANOC).

The ANOC will inform the existing plan members about any changes to the 2012 Medicare plan’s premium, deductible, cost-sharing, and other plan coverage features. The ANOC will also contain important changes to the plan’s 2012 formulary or drug list. Since the Open Enrollment Period has moved ahead this year, most people enrolled in a 2011 Medicare Part D prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan will have already received their Annual Notice of Change letter and are encouraged to review it carefully because Medicare plan coverage features and costs can change significantly year-to-year.

Since the ANOC letter may be a little overwhelming at first glance, Q1Medicare.com provides an online tool to let users easily visualize the basic changes in any stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan’s coverage. In fact, the Q1Medicare 2011/2012 PDP-Compare tool allows users to quickly get an overview of how all Medicare Prescription drug plans in their state are changing.

PDP-Compare includes Medicare Part D plan changes such as the plan name, premium, deductible, gap coverage, cost-sharing and Low-Income Subsidy status. The 2011/2012 PDP-Compare also shows the Medicare Part D plans that are new for the 2012 plan year and those 2011 plans that will be discontinued in 2012. The Q1Medicare PDP-Compare can be found directly at PDP-Compare.com/2012.

Medicare Part D prescription drug and Medicare Advantage plans that will not be continued in 2012 must contact their existing plan members by October 2 stating that their plan will no longer be offered next year. If members of a discontinued or non-renewing plan make no 2012 plan choice, they will be disenrolled from their Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan starting December 31, 2011. As a result, these members of a non-renewing stand-alone Medicare Part D plan will not have prescription drug coverage for 2012 and members of Medicare Advantage plans will be returned to Original Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B coverage. However, a Special Enrollment Period will be available to assist Medicare beneficiaries whose plans are discontinued and it will begin December 8 and continue through February 2012.

“The changes in this year’s annual Open Enrollment Period dates poses a new challenge for many Medicare beneficiaries since this enrollment period includes a six-week overlap when enrollment in both 2011 and 2012 Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans is available,” notes Dr. Susan Johnson, Technical Director and co-founder of Q1Group LLC. “Therefore, Medicare beneficiaries should be particularly careful to ensure that they have chosen the correct 2011 or 2012 enrollment option when joining a plan.”

People who currently qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) or who are newly Medicare eligible and in their Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) can still enroll in a 2011 Medicare Part D plan in October and November with their 2011 Medicare Part D plan taking effect on the first day of the month following their enrollment. Medicare beneficiaries still joining a 2011 plan should be sure that the plan materials and enrollment form they are using are for the 2011 plan year. They should also review how their selected 2011 plan will change in 2012 or be prepared to select a different plan for 2012 before the December 7th end of the annual Open Enrollment Period.

Likewise, Medicare beneficiaries who are looking for a 2012 Medicare Part D plan should pay particular attention to the plan finders, plan materials, and enrollment form to be sure that they are the 2012 versions and remember that they cannot enroll in their 2012 plan before October 15th and not after December 7, 2011.

About the Q1Medicare.com Website
Q1Medicare.com is one of the largest independent online resources for Medicare Part D prescription drug plan and Medicare Advantage plan information. Q1Medicare offers a large section of Frequently Asked Questions online tools, and a free Medicare Part D Newsletter all designed to help Medicare beneficiaries, health care professionals, advocates, advisers, and insurance agents better understand both the Medicare Part D prescription drug and Medicare Advantage programs. Q1Medicare.com is operated by Q1Group LLC (Saint Augustine, Florida).

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Lynnea Christner

Susan Johnson MS-MIS, MBA, PhD
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