What Everyone on Medicare Needs to Know About the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period: A Comprehensive Guide
Unless you make a change, your Medicare plan renews itself at the start of every year, although the benefits can change. Every year, insurance companies evaluate and improve the advantages of its Medicare plans.
Make sure your plan will still fulfill your needs before letting it automatically renew. If you choose to, you can adjust your coverage during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period runs annually from October 15 to December 7, and is also known as the Medicare Open Enrollment Period.
You can maximize the benefits of your Medicare or Medicare Advantage coverage by being aware of Medicare open enrollment. Here’s everything you need to know!
What Is Medicare Annual Enrollment?
During the annual Medicare open enrollment period, which runs from October 15 to December 7, people who already have Medicare can switch or adapt their coverage. To ensure that you have the Medicare coverage that is best for you, your family, and your budget, it’s always a good idea to compare options and evaluate your prescription drug and health needs during this time.
What Parts of Medicare Can You Enroll in?
The following types of Medicare coverage are available during the Medicare annual enrollment period:
- Original Medicare: Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) make up original Medicare. Before choosing additional coverage alternatives, everyone must enroll in these two sections and pay the Part B cost. During Medicare open enrollment, you can choose to return to Original Medicare if you’re currently a member of a Medicare Advantage plan.
- Medicare Advantage: Private insurers offer Medicare Advantage (often referred to as Medicare Part C) plans as an alternate option to Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans could provide extra benefits such as vision and dental care coverage. Additionally, Medicare Advantage plans typically include Part D prescription drug coverage.
- Medicare Part D: Private insurance companies also handle the administration of Medicare Part D standalone policies for prescription drug coverage. An optional program called Part D helps to cover the costs of your prescription medications. If you go 63 or more days without receiving prescription medication coverage through Medicare or another creditable source, you can be subject to a penalty.
What Can You Do During the Enrollment Period?
A few of the things you can do during this period include:
- Change your current Medicare Advantage plan to a different one
- Switch from an Original Medicare plan to a Medicare Advantage one, or vice versa
- Sign up for a Medicare prescription drug plan
- Add drug coverage to your Medicare Advantage plan or remove it
- Cancel your Medicare prescription drug coverage plan
- Change your Medicare drug plan to a different one
In the event that you switch back to Original Medicare during this time and decide to purchase Medigap, you can end up paying more than you anticipated for the supplement policy or being turned down for coverage. Irrespective of your health status, you have six months from the first month you enroll in Medicare Part B to purchase any Medigap policy offered in your area. After that, Medigap firms may demand a medical checkup and charge you more or refuse to issue you coverage if your health is a problem, with the exception of four states. These states are CT, MA, ME, and NY and have a guarantee issue all the time.
All modifications made by December 7 will be covered starting January 1.
If the Medicare annual enrollment period ends and you decide that you don’t like your Medicare Advantage plan, you can make adjustments during the annual Medicare Advantage open enrollment period. This period is between January 1 and March 31.
What Are You Prohibited from Doing During This Period?
You cannot enroll in Medicare during this time since open enrollment for Medicare is only available to those who are currently covered by the program. You must sign up for Medicare in Medicare’s general enrollment period, the initial enrollment period, or a special enrollment period if you’re eligible for it.
How to Decide If You Need to Change Your Medicare Plan
Early in the year, use and evaluate your Medicare plan to see if you’re receiving the customer service and coverage you want.
You can select a new Medicare plan from the same insurance provider as your existing plan or from a different provider if you decide to make the change. Furthermore, you can choose from any available plans in your specific area.
If you want to go from an Advantage plan back to Original Medicare, first consider Part D and Medicare supplement insurance. To have the coverage and financial security you desire, you might have to add them to Original Medicare. Additionally, consider how you’ll replace any coverage, such as vision and dental, that you might lose if you give up a Medicare Advantage plan.
What Should You Watch Out for?
With 11,000 Americans becoming eligible for Medicare every day and the baby boomer group being the fastest-growing segment of the population, the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period has grown into a massive industry. While the open enrollment period can be extremely beneficial for many people, there are still a few essential aspects you need to take note of.
Every September, Medicare Advantage plans send out an annual Notice of Change letter. While it may seem like too much admin to go through, it is filled with crucial information. Therefore, we don’t encourage you to send it to junk mail. You need to read the fine print and all the applicable changes to ensure that the new plan does not affect you negatively. If you have any doubts, feel free to talk to your Medicare agent. A few things that Medicare clients should always pay close attention to include changes in premiums, co-pays, deductibles, network, drug formularies, or specific needs and requests.
Secondly, keep in mind that you are in no way obliged to change your plan if you’re satisfied with it. However, if you need to make changes, review all the alterations to ensure that you’re getting the most suitable and affordable coverage for your specific needs.
Medicare beneficiaries should be aware of a number of marketing strategies to safeguard themselves against dishonest lead-generating firms and unethical agents and agencies. Don’t sign any agreement or agree to changes if anyone comes to your home and asks you to fill in a form. Medicare, Social Security, and other government agencies do not send postcards informing you of lower rates or better coverage. The same can be said for digital marketing ads such as text messages and emails.
TV commercials can also be extremely deceiving when it comes to Medicare plans. Just because you see your favorite TV star or professional athlete in a commercial does not mean you should trust it. In order to get your attention, these commercials mention plans that are only available to people who are both enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid. However, the fine print will often reveal that you may only be eligible if you are enrolled in Medicaid.
Additionally, Medicare Advantage plans differ significantly by area. Medicare clients should be aware that advertisements cost a lot of money and are made to get you to contact an 1800 number so they can sell the call to businesses such as agencies and insurance providers.
The Bottom Line
It’s natural to have some anxiety when selecting your Medicare plan or switching from your current plan to a new one. Any choice that affects your health is significant. However, keep in mind that you are selecting a plan for the upcoming 12 months. You can change during the subsequent Medicare open enrollment period if you don’t like the coverage you’re receiving or if you find another plan with broader coverage and better savings. Therefore, rest assured that you have all the information necessary to make an informed decision.
Can You Enroll in Medicare During the Medicare Open Enrollment Period?
You can sign up for Medicare during the initial enrollment period, which typically covers the three months leading up to and following your 65th birthday month as well as the month of your actual birthday. If you don’t sign up for Medicare at that time, you’ll need to wait until the general enrollment period, which takes place from January 1 to March 31 every year. Waiting until the general registration period could result in late fees and a July 1 start date for coverage.
When Is the Medicare Open Enrollment Period?
The period runs from January 1st to March 31st every year.
When Is the Medigap Open Enrollment Period?
The six-month Medigap open enrollment period begins on the first day of the month in which you turn 65 and sign up for Medicare Part B. You must get a Medigap policy during this time for the same cost as everyone else, irrespective of any current medical issues. After that, companies can demand a medical checkup, increase the cost of coverage, or refuse coverage entirely in all but four states.