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Are You Ready for the “Holidaze”?

By Cindy Kleine

Let’s face it, most people love autumn, especially here in the desert. The weather cools off a little bit, football is in the air, the kids are back in school, and right around the corner is holiday fun!

Most of the regular holidays we enjoy such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Yom Kippur and Christmas occur on a specific date or within the “holiday season.” The same holds true for the annual enrollment period (or AEP) for Medicare.

Just like the holidays, Medicare’s AEP is the same every year, from October 15th to December 7th. During AEP, you can add, drop or switch your Medicare coverage. There are many similarities between the holidays and annual enrollment period, and I want to share a few to make my point.

Like Santa Claus who watches all year to see who has been naughty or nice,  the Medicare program rates all health and prescription drug plans each year. These evaluations are based on a plan’s quality and performance. Medicare then provides a “star rating” to each plan. The star rating helps folks make informed decisions on who is doing a good job (nice) or the overall performance of a plan. Shoppers who are looking for a new plan can use star ratings as a guide to compare one plan’s performance to another. A total of five stars is the highest mark. Star ratings should be remembered like the star at the top of a Christmas tree: the more points the better.

My second comparison are the retailers. Retailers start their advertising for holiday shopping early in the season and so do insurance companies. October 1 (immediately after Yom Kippur) is the first day insurance companies can advertise their new plans. Prior to the unveiling of their plans, companies are required to mail them out as an “Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC) to their customers. The large thick booklet reminds me of the toy catalog of years past. While not nearly as exciting, the information in this booklet is very important. It will alert you to the changes in your plan’s benefits, coverages, costs, co-pays, deductibles, formulary, maximum out-of-pocket and the service area. Medicare Advantage Plans (MA), (MAPD), (PPO) and (Prescription Drug plans- PDP) are required to provide you with the ANOC.

So our holiday season starts with every retailer and insurance company vying for our business. Mass mailings, TV commercials, radio ads and invitations to attend community meetings…If only they were all party invites, life would surely be grand!

Don’t be a Grinch, but a wise shopper! The community meetings and the professionals who conduct them will save you time and help you to make informed decisions. They will cover the new benefits for the upcoming year and be readily available to enroll you, should that be your choice.

Then, just like the holidays, the madness is over. While we sit in front of our TVs on New Year’s Day, in our hearts we will welcome 2018 with hopes of good health, and happy that our new insurance plan is in effect.

Cindy Kleine is an independent sales agent with Kleine Financial & Insurance Solutions, Inc. in Palm Desert and serves the entire Coachella Valley (License 0B77352). For more information or a list of her community meetings, call (760) 346.9700.

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