The literature companies send out in August are typically generic descriptions of their plans. The details for their 2016 offerings won't be "officially" available until September. However, it is also the time when notifications are mailed for discontinued plans and/or plan modifications (such as prescription drugs no longer being on a plan's formulary or premium increases) for your current plans. It is easy to get inundated with marketing information and overlook important plan notifications. Make sure to read everything you get in August and September from your 2015 insurance plans. People frequently overlook formulary changes, health plan changes and discontinuation notices that will affect their 2016 coverage.
Before the barrage of information hits, take some time to look at the pros and cons of your current health and prescription drug coverage. If you are dissatisfied with the cost of your coverage based on premiums, copay/coinsurance or formulary coverage - it's a good time to consider what kind of coverage you want in 2016.
The insurance policies you are able to buy in 2016, as a Medicare recipient, are offered by zip code and will be listed in www.medicare.gov starting October 15, 2015. You'll have until December 7, 2015 to chose and enroll in a different plan. After December 7th, you will not be able to change your coverage again until October 2016 for January 2017. The one exception to that is if you want to switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to use original Medicare. You can do that from January 1 - February 15. But there are a lot of other implications to doing that so it is not an easy switch. None of this applies to people with Medicare Supplemental plans (aka medigaps). The rules for when and if you can change a medigap policy are determined by your state. Contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (aka SHIP) to find out those rules. The phone number can be found at www.shipnpr.acl.gov
The Medicare Advantage and part D insurance companies always offer their policies based on zip codes. If you have friends in other states or even in other counties in your state that rave about their policies, it may not help you decide on a plan because their policy might not be available in your zip code. Also, don't forgot, the insurance policies offered through OneExchange are a SUBSET of the insurance polices you are able to buy in your zip code. That's really important to remember. For example, if the OneExchange prescription drug insurance policies do not provide coverage for the drugs you need or the cost of your drugs is high, look at the Rx insurance policies listed on medicare.gov or call Medicare (1-800-MEDICARE) to look for a less expensive Rx policy. You only need to buy ONE policy from OneExchange to be able to get your IBM HRA funding. You do not need to buy all your Medicare insurance from OneExchange.
If you feel your 2015 insurance policies provide good coverage AND the insurance companies do not make significant changes to those policies for 2016 then there is NOTHING to do with either Medicare or OneExchange to continue coverage and get your IBM HRA in 2016.
If you think it is time for a change then do some research and figure out your options. Do this yourself, don't rely on an insurance agent. That's like going to a Ford showroom and expecting a sales person to tell you about Toyota. Like OneExchange, insurance agents sell a subset of insurance policies you are able to buy. If you have original Medicare, a change you might consider is to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan. Remember, once you go to a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan you trade a national coverage plan for a zip code based plan. You also need to do a thorough job of looking at cost sharing for an MA plan. The insurance companies usually do not tell you about all the aspects of cost sharing unless you ask. For example, ask them what is the copay for an out of network specialist or an ambulance. That might give you some insight of the true cost of their policy. Even better, ask for a complete schedule of cost sharing. Reputable companies will provide it. Most importantly, make sure the doctors you want to see are included in the insurance policy network. In October, look online at medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE to be sure your drugs are still covered by your plan and that you are not overpaying for your drugs.
So, get ready - fall enrollment will be here before you know it!