Medicare Open Enrollment is your chance to reevaluate your coverage and change plans. It is also called the annual coordinated election period or the annual election period and you can change your coverage whether it is an Advantage plan, an original plan or a prescription drug plan through Part D. During Open Enrollment, you can change from Advantage to an Original plan, change Advantage Plans, drop Part D entirely or join a prescription drug plan.
Medicare plans can be confusing and during retirement planning, some people may sign up for one plan and realize later that they would be better off with a different plan. Even those who sign up for the right plan may have different needs later. In addition, plans can change significantly every year. Open Enrollment lasts from October 15th – December 7th every year. Here are five important things to know before you decide to change plans.
1. Even if you are satisfied with your current plan, it is worth doing some research about different plans that may be offered in your area. If you have Advantage or Part D prescription drug coverage, you may be able to reduce your costs by looking at different plans each year. You could find a plan that has fewer restrictions for the drugs you take and lower prices.
2. When you are planning your retirement options, this is your chance to change to an Advantage plan. More than a quarter of the enrolled population is in an Advantage plan. In these plans, you can receive Parts A and B benefits through a private insurer that has a contract with Medicare and the plans cover outpatient care, hospitalization and in some cases prescription drugs all under one plan. Some plans even have vision and dental.
3. If you are not sure which is the best plan for your needs, you can look on the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) website or call your local SHIP office and the people there will help you understand all of the coverage options that are available in your area. The government website has a plan-finder tool where you can enter your zip code to compare prescription drug plans and Advantage plans available in your area.
4. If you have not signed up yet, this is not the time. Initial enrollment is usually three months before and three months after you turn 65 years old. Open Enrollment is for those who are already signed up for and are thinking about changing their plan. However, if you missed the initial enrollment deadline, you can sign up for an Advantage or Part D prescription drug plan during Open Enrollment.
5. Many preventative medical services have become free such as yearly checkups, cancer and diabetes screenings among other things. These could be available to you without paying any deductible, coinsurance or copay. When you research the plans that are available in your area, you may ask about free preventative benefits and learn how you can change plans to take advantage of them. If you are enrolled in an Advantage plan, your insurer can tell you what is covered.
Open Enrollment is your opportunity to get the most medical and prescription drug coverage for the least cost. Your current plan may be perfect for you but you won’t be sure unless you research the changes made during the year and compare them to your coverage. If you find lower cost prescription drugs or free preventative medical services, it’s your chance to change plans. If you decide you still have the best coverage, you do not need to do anything.