Question: I changed my insurance plan for 2020. It starts on January 1, 2020 I know. What if I haven’t paid my premium bill? Will it still cover me? I haven’t gotten the bill yet.
Answer: During this time of Annual Open Enrollment, many individuals decide to change their insurance coverage. The plan you currently have for 2019, very likely has sent you material for 2020. They assume you will keep the same product for the new year. They print it up ahead of time and hold to mail once you are close to the end of the year.
Your new plan has just recently been notified you enrolled in their plan. They are preparing those new cards, evidence of coverage documents and the billing procedures. This new information takes a little longer to get.
Many individuals find they are approaching the 1-1-2020 start date and haven’t received a bill yet. In this situation, I would ask you if have received any information from the new company you enrolled in? Did you receive a welcome letter, or packet of information? Did you receive an insurance card? If you answer “yes” to any of those questions, you are all set. The new plan knows you chose them, they acknowledged that choice with the information they sent to you. Your coverage will begin the first of the month.
This 1-1-2020 start date is the beginning of your new insurance. Show the new card to the doctor, pharmacy and other providers as of the first of the month. You may not get a bill prior to that start date, but the coverage is still good, and you have some time to pay your premium bill. You will ideally pay it in the first month (30-days) of coverage. Watch the mail, wait for the bill to come and then pay it when it arrives.
I will say, I caution very strongly against sending your new company any money unless you have a bill or coupon to send with that payment. These insurance companies insure hundreds of thousands of individuals in many cases from all over the country. So sending your check in an envelope addressed to the insurance company, does not mean they will process that payment correctly.
When you send the payment with a coupon or monthly invoice, they know who they should credit the payment to. So be sure to wait and use that premium bill, coupon or invoice to mail back with your payment.
There are times when individuals like to get these bills taken care of, so they can move onto other things. Maybe you are traveling and will be away for a bit, maybe you like to pay your bills early, so everything is taken care of. I understand those desires and conveniences.
One thing you can do to get this taken care of if you haven’t received a bill, is call the new insurance company on the phone and talk to them about setting up an automatic payment. This could be an EFT from a checking account, or the insurance company billing a credit card. You could also pay the full 12 months of payments in one payment, completely covering the years’ worth of premiums in one payment.
If this prepayment isn’t something you wish to do, my advice is to wait until you receive the bill. You will probably receive it in the first part of January, if you have not received it by January 1st. Once you receive the bill you can pay it immediately. In the following months, they will be sending the bills earlier or closer to the 1stof the month.
If you are paying your premium bill during the month of January, it will cover you and your medications at the pharmacy during the month of January. You have up to 60-days to pay the premiums before the company can cancel you for non-payment. So no worries there, you have lots of time.
I want to thank you for looking into your insurance options during Open Enrollment. This is the one time that most American’s on Medicare have to evaluate their insurance and make the necessary changes to improve their coverage. Statistically speaking most individuals do NOT do this. Many people just let the coverage roll over year to year and don’t like to think about it. Your evaluation process ensures that you have the best possible coverage year to year.
For those of you that didn’t change your plan, there may be a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) available we could use to change your insurance. So reach out to someone and talk about your coverage. Don’t assume you are stuck with your coverage for another year. Look to see what SEP’s are available to help you if necessary.
To contact Janell Sluga, GCMC with questions or concerns, please call 716-720-9797 or e-mail her at email@example.com.