"If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself" - Billy Noonan
Are you ready?
Medicare’s open enrollment period happens once a year between October 15 and December 7. During this time, current Medicare beneficiaries have the option to adjust their coverage for the coming year. This can be a useful option for those who may have recently changed medications, underutilized their current coverage, or found out that they could use additional benefits.
How to Search For Medicare Plan Options
It shouldn’t take a ton of research to determine what your current coverage is and what options are available for you during this coming enrollment period. You should receive information from the government regarding your current Medicare coverage each year. Even if your coverage hasn’t changed within the last few years, it is important to still take the time to review your current coverage and identify any areas for improvement.
There are tools available online or by phone to learn more about other plans if you’re thinking about switching or changing coverage. Medicare offers a Plan Finder tool online or you can call 1-800-MEDICARE to find out about new Advantage plans in your area. Or, check out the State Health Insurance Assistance Program site to find help in your state.
Can Anyone Make Changes During the Open Enrollment Period?
Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period is only for those who are already existing Medicare beneficiaries.
If you have yet to sign up for Medicare, your period to do so runs between the three months before and three months after you turn 65.1 If you miss this initial enrollment period, you can not sign up for Medicare during the open enrollment period beginning in October. Instead, you must wait until Medicare’s general enrollment period, which runs from January 1 through March 31.1
Are Changes Made During Open-Enrollment Effective Immediately?
No, the changes you elect to make during Medicare’s open enrollment period will not go into effect until January 1 of the following year.
What Changes Can Be Made During Medicare’s Open Enrollment?
During the open enrollment period, you are eligible to change your Medicare coverage, and you also have the option to switch between different Medicare plans. Below are few coverage options you can choose to add, drop or adjust depending on your needs for the new year.
Medigap is a supplemental insurance policy designed to help cover the costs of certain medical expenses that Medicare doesn’t cover. Your Medigap policy may cover expenses such as:
- Medical care when traveling abroad2
Whether you have had Medigap coverage in the past or you would find it beneficial moving forward, you can adjust, add, or drop your Medigap coverage during open enrollment. But beware! The Medigap guaranteed-issue period is the six-month period following enrollment in Part B. That means if you plan on dropping your Medicare Advantage Plan and switching to Original Medicare with a Medigap policy, you will be subject to underwriting and if your health doesn’t measure up, you could be denied coverage. (Exceptions are residents of New York, Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts, whose state laws require Medigap insurers to take everyone regardless of health status.)
Medicare Advantage (or Part C) is a type of healthcare plan offered by private companies contracted through Medicare. It’s designed to combine Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) as well as, in some instances, offer a prescription drug plan or other additional coverage.
During open enrollment, you can choose to switch back to an original Medicare plan, if you found that Medicare Advantage did not fit your needs. Alternatively, you are also free to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan from an original Medicare plan during this period - subject to the underwriting rules that I mentioned above. Be sure to shop around for different options, as you’ll have several choices from various providers when it comes to choosing a Medicare Advantage plan. It is important to review your estimated total out-of-pocket costs and not be lured in exclusively by plans with no monthly premiums.
Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Plan)
If you are utilizing a Medicare Advantage plan, this may not apply to you. But for those who have an original Medicare plan, it’s important to check for changes to your Part D coverage every year. Coverage through your plan can change yearly, and your prescription needs may change as well. Make sure your current plan has your needs covered through the next year. If not, now’s the time to look around for new coverage.
Health care costs are a major factor in the success or failure of your retirement plan. Medical expenses can add up quickly, especially if your current coverage is not tailored to address your needs. Medicare's open enrollment period is the time to review your coverage as well as your out-of-pocket expenses. The changes you make or don't make could have a major impact on your long-term retirement plans.
If you are finding that Medicare is just too confusing or want to discover the best way to navigate the process in a way that maximizes your benefit, I would love to help you. Nobody likes to pay more than they have to for anything and you want to make sure that you have the adequate coverage that you need during your retirement years. If you’d like to learn more, or if you want help in reviewing your current situation please feel free to contact me. I have a deep understanding of Medicare and Social Security. I’d love to help you build the financial security you deserve.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.