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Four Things to Consider When Reviewing Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP)

The Medicare Advantage open enrollment period, or MA OEP, is a Medicare enrollment period that runs from January 1 through March 31 each year. The MA OEP gives beneficiaries who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan a chance to change their coverage. Changes are effective the first of the following month.

Unlike the annual enrollment period, or AEP, the MA OEP is only available to some Medicare beneficiaries.  As the Open Enrollment Period kicks off on January 1, consider these four things before committing to a plan:

Cost

While specific plans can differ widely, it’s typically more cost-effective to receive benefits from Medicare Advantage instead of Original Medicare because out-of-pocket costs tend to be lower. According to Medicare.gov, many Medicare Advantage plans have a $0 monthly premium. In some cases, out-of-pocket costs are even included.

With Original Medicare, there’s no limit to your potential medical bills. If you have a chronic health condition or an unexpected health crisis, you could pay thousands. Most Medicare Advantage plans can now also cover benefits than they haven’t in the past, like vision, hearing dental and more– some that Original Medicare doesn’t cover.

Telemedicine Benefits

New for 2021, there are several value-added benefits included in most Medicare Advantage plans, most notably telemedicine. With the onset of COVID-19, telemedicine has bridged the care gap for at-risk seniors.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved telehealth benefits in 2020, and the technology has exploded in popularity since. The U.S. Department of Health Services reported that nearly half of all Medicare primary care visits were through telemedicine in April alone, and this form of care isn’t going to subside in popularity once the COVID-19 crisis eases. As Medicare-eligible seniors become increasingly technologically literate, virtual care will continue to grow in importance.

“As telemedicine becomes more widely available, people looking to choose a Medicare Advantage plan should consider how different plan options approach virtual service delivery,” said Dr. Kishlay Anand, Arizona cardiologist and CEO of Apricus Health. “Ease-of-use is absolutely paramount, especially for those who struggle with technology. I recommend carefully reviewing Medicare Advantage plans that not only include telemedicine, but also allow users to connect virtually with as little complexity as possible.”

Accessibility

To get the most from a Medicare Advantage plan, it’s critical to understand how user-friendly a plan’s technology benefits are, in addition to how robust its patient support network is. Care navigators are an excellent point of communication between members and providers, and plans that include personal care navigators greatly improve accessibility. They do this by helping with appointment scheduling, drug delivery and technology, and by answering member questions.

“I encourage Medicare-eligible patients to seek plans that are easy to understand,” said Dr. Greg Celaya, a family practice physician in Arizona that is part of the Apricus Health Network. “Medicare Advantage plans should be as straightforward and simple as possible, so consider how the plan aims to provide tangible value to its members. Care navigators and customer support can play an integral role in the patient experience by aiding with all aspects of the healthcare process.”

Accessibility also extends to technologies like telehealth and more. If healthcare technology requires multiple software downloads and a newer operating system to use properly, then it’s likely going to cause more trouble than it should. Setting up telemedicine appointments, reviewing personal health data and speaking with a provider should only require the click of a single link and not one step more.

Plans that include care navigators are a rare find, but they can mean the difference between spending endless hours on the phone with multiple organizations. Care navigators should also be available to help members download the necessary systems to their personal computer, so when it’s time for a virtual appointment, members can simply click on a link to speak with their provider. When it comes to Medicare Advantage benefits, simplicity and personal service is everything.

The Future of Care

Those eligible for Medicare Advantage should also consider how adaptable a plan is to changing times. Medicare benefits tend to improve year-over-year, as seniors continue to evaluate ancillary benefits.

Something up-and-coming worth noting is the increased use of Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM). RPM is the use of technology to keep up with a patient outside of a clinical setting, which helps to further increase care access. Although most Medicare Advantage plans will cover RPM reimbursement, most plans don’t include the devices needed to execute this. These devices include blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters, blood sugar monitors and more.

“For higher-risk patients that need constant, connected care, choosing a Medicare Advantage plan that covers the use of remote patient monitoring devices is essential,” said Arizona Apricus Health Network physician Dr. Merle Turner. “As a healthcare provider, it’s key for me to know what’s going on with my patients, especially those who can’t be seen regularly in person. Having a plan that addresses at-home monitoring without any burden on the patients is a win for doctors and members alike.”

The Apricus Way

To provide access to convenient, and affordable healthcare throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area, Apricus Health was designed by local healthcare experts to improve patient outcomes. Our friendly, knowledgeable care navigators are ready to assist you 24 hours a day, committed to delivering “Care Your Way.” Apricus has established a growing health network comprised of Arizona’s leading primary care and specialty healthcare providers, 24/7 Urgent Care Centers, Med Clinics and simple-to-use telehealth solutions.

With the right Medicare Advantage plan, you can receive all the Apricus Health member benefits at no additional cost, including:

  • A dedicated Care Navigator to help schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, arrange telehealth visits and navigate today’s complex healthcare system
  • Access to over a dozen popular prescriptions at no charge and reduced costs on other prescriptions
  • Free same-day home prescription delivery
  • 24/7 access to telehealth providers who have the patient’s current medical records
  • Proactive, around-the-clock Home Monitoring for members with chronic diseases

For more information about Apricus or to speak with a State-Licensed enrollment expert, please visit our Medicare Advantage resource page or call 602-357-CARE (2273).