Q: When can I make changes to my health insurance plan? I feel like that is coming up soon and I have started to get a lot more mail from insurance companies.
A: Oct. 1 is quickly becoming my favorite day of the year. My mailbox is always full of stuff, everyone is full of questions. My phone rings off the hook. Anticipation runs high about the coming year's insurance.
OK, so maybe I am crazy. I love the Annual Open Enrollment Period. This is your opportunity to evaluate your insurance options and switch to a plan that works better for you if you want to.
Each year there is an Annual Open Enrollment Period (AEP). This is the period of time when you can make changes to your prescription drug coverage which may also impact your health insurance coverage. You can add prescription drug coverage, you may change the company you get your prescription drug coverage from, or the way you get your prescription drug coverage. If you aren't currently in a prescription drug plan, this is the period where you can join for the first time. If you are already in a prescription drug plan, you can switch to an alternate plan. Whatever change you make during this year's AEP, will take effect the first of the year (Jan. 1, 2014).
The Annual Open Enrollment Period dates begin Oct. 15 and lasts until Dec. 7. This allows the insurance companies time to send you your new plan information and insurance card before the first of the year. This is significant because you must make a decision by Dec. 7. If you try to make a decision after Dec. 7 you will not be able to change your insurance. You must research your decision and complete the enrollment prior to Dec. 7.
Each of the companies will announce their insurance products beginning Oct. 1. That is why you have begun getting a lot of mailings. The most important one to watch for is from your current company. Review the material they send to you and decide whether the changes still meet your needs. The other mailings you receive you can certainly review to see if they are of interest to you.
If you are interested in switching insurance products, you can research the options and then you have to decide (enroll) between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7, so the plan will begin on Jan. 1, 2014.
In summary, this date for the Annual Open Enrollment Period gives us 53 days to make our changes. It then will allow everyone to get their new insurance cards prior to the start date of the insurance. The plans are announced on Oct. 1, so you have 14 days to do your research before the enrollment period begins, as well as during the 53 days. Just don't wait too long to make your enrollment decision. If you make no decision or decide to stay with the plan you have, you don't need to do anything. The plan you already have will roll over into 2014.
Happy insurance season.