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Annual Election Period Lets Medicare Beneficiaries Choose Best-Fit Coverage

The Annual Election Period — which ends Dec. 7 — is an opportunity for people covered by Medicare to re-evaluate or change their health plan and prescription drug coverage

November 23, 2016



A senior womand and a nurse are sitting in a waiting area smiling at one another

When Gayle Uchida was shopping for a Medicare Advantage plan in 2012, it was her friends’ rave reviews that convinced her to try Kaiser Permanente. A member in the ‘80s, Uchida left Kaiser Permanente and tried several other health plans over the years. Now, she says, Kaiser Permanente’s seamless quality care and coverage is the right fit for her.

“Now I’m such a cheerleader for Kaiser Permanente,” she said.

“I’m impressed that all my doctors and specialists are so integrated in working to treat my health conditions,” said Uchida, a Kaiser Permanente Senior Advantage member in Alameda, California. “My doctors are incredibly caring and skilled. I feel like they’re on my team to keep me healthy as I age.”

Uchida’s success in finding a Medicare plan that meets her needs is the outcome many seniors are hoping for as they review and reassess their Medicare coverage during this period.

What is the Medicare Annual Election Period?

Also known as Medicare Open Enrollment, the Annual Election Period is a time for Medicare beneficiaries to change their Medicare health plans and prescription drug coverage. For instance, during this enrollment window Medicare members may:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another
  • Enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t include drug coverage to one that does, or vice versa

In most cases, the Annual Election Period is the only time during the year that beneficiaries can make these changes. This enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, and coverage changes made during this time go into effect Jan. 1.

Making the most of AEP

screen shot of the Kaiser Permanente Medicare Advantage website in 2015.“This is a great time for Medicare beneficiaries to re-evaluate their Medicare coverage,” said Agnes Strandberg, senior vice president, Kaiser Permanente Medicare. “If they’re not satisfied with the care and coverage provided by their current plan, along with the quality of care and service offered, they can choose a plan that better meets their needs.”

Here are some tips to keep in mind during the AEP:

  1. Take stock — It’s important to take an inventory — of your health, health care needs and your current coverage. Has your plan changed coverage or services? Have your health, prescription needs or other circumstances recently changed? If so, it’s worth looking into coverage options that better fit your needs.
  2. Know the different parts of Medicare — Medicare is comprised of Part A (hospital insurance), Part B (medical insurance), Part C (Medicare Advantage plans) and Part D (prescription drug coverage). You should understand how each part differs and what’s covered.
  3. Confirm your eligibility — If you’re looking to switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, there are certain eligibility requirements you must meet. This is also true if you’re looking to make changes to your Part D prescription drug coverage.
  4. Do your research — Medicare Advantage plans and Part D plans can vary in terms of services and coverage offered — such as premiums, copays, access to specialists and drug coverage details. To better plan for your needs, take into account your current health needs and the coverage you think you’ll need in the future.
  5. Become a quality hound — The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services created the Medicare star quality rating system to help beneficiaries assess plans. Five-star plans are those that earn 5 out of 5 stars — the highest overall score — for quality and service.

Quality and Service

In 2016, five out of seven of Kaiser Permanente service areas earned 5 out of 5 stars for quality and service by CMS. Of the 1.6 million beneficiaries enrolled in 5-star plans nationwide, 81 percent are Kaiser Permanente Medicare members.

Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to providing excellent care and a high-quality member experience goes beyond the hospital or medical office. The organization provides digital technology and tools so members can access care and manage their health whenever and wherever they need to.

For Uchida, who worked in high tech for decades before retiring, the use of online tools and technology is a great complement to the personalized care she receives. “It’s fantastic to be able to communicate with my doctors over email,” she said. “I can’t believe how responsive they are — it’s amazing. For things like follow-up and non-emergency questions, email is such a time-saver.”

Kaiser Permanente’s Medicare health plan website, kp.org/medicare, is rated one of the top 10 Medicare websites in the nation this year for providing consumers an easy, positive and high-value experience. And for the second year in a row, the health plan was ranked No. 1 for customer satisfaction by Medicare Advantage customers, according to the J.D. Power Medicare Advantage Study.

For more information about Kaiser Permanente Medicare plans, please visit kp.org/medicare.