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What is an Annual Notice of Change?

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Dear Savvy Senior,

Last year I received a “notice of change” letter from my Medicare provider. Should I expect another one this year, and what should I do with it?

Medicare Rookie

Dear Rookie,

The letter you’re asking about is actually referred to as the Annual Notice of Change (or ANOC), which is a letter you receive from your Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D prescription drug plan in late September. (People with only a Medigap plan don’t receive these because Medigap plans do not have benefit changes from year to year). So yes, you should expect to receive another letter next month.

The ANOC gives a summary of any changes in your plan’s costs and coverage that will take effect Jan. 1 of the next year. The ANOC is typically mailed with the plan’s “evidence of coverage,” which is a more comprehensive list of the plan’s costs and benefits for the upcoming year.

You should review these notices to see if your plan will continue to meet your health care needs in 2023. If you are dissatisfied with any upcoming changes, you can make changes to your coverage during fall open enrollment, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

Here are three types of changes to look for:

Costs: If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, find out what you can expect to pay for services in 2023. Costs such as deductibles and copayments can change each year. For example, your plan may not have had a deductible in 2022, but it could have one in 2023. A deductible is the amount of money you owe out-of-pocket before your plan begins to cover your care. Another example is that your plan may increase the copayments you owe for visits to your primary care provider or specialists.

Coverage: If you have an Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage check to see if your doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers and pharmacies will still be in network for 2023. You have the lowest out-of-pocket costs if you go to providers and pharmacies that are in your plan’s network. If you see an out-of-network provider, your plan may not cover any of the cost of your care, leaving you to pay the cost out-of-pocket. You should also contact your providers directly to confirm that they will still be accepting your plan in the coming year.

Drugs: If you have prescription drug coverage, look through the plan’s formulary, which is the list of drugs the plan covers. Formulary changes can happen from year to year, so make sure the medications you’re taking will be covered next year, and that they’re not moved to a higher tier which will affect your copay. If you see any changes that will increase your costs, you may want to select a different drug plan that covers all of your medications. If the formulary is incomplete, or you do not see your drug(s) on the list, contact the plan directly to learn more.

If you have not received an ANOC by the end of September, you should contact your Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D plan to request it. This notice can be very helpful in determining whether you should make any changes to your coverage during the fall open enrollment. Reading your ANOC can also prevent any surprises about your coverage in the new year.

Shopping, comparing and enrolling in a new Medicare Advantage or Part D plan during the open enrollment period can easily be done online at Medicare’s Plan Finder Tool at Medicare.gov/find-a-plan.

Or, if you don’t have a computer or Internet access, you can also call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and they can help you out over the phone. Your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which provides free Medicare counseling, is also a great resource to help you make any changes. To find a local SHIP counselor, visit ShipHelp.org or call 877-839-2675.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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