Understanding Medicare Open Enrollment
The rules regarding Medicare, the government’s health insurance program for senior citizens or those who have special needs, are confusing enough. The open enrollment period adds another layer of uncertainty for those who need the services offered. The term “open enrollment period” is also used for those signing up for the Affordable Care Act, so be careful not to confuse that period when you mean to sign up for Medicare or change you plan.
The Open Enrollment Period
The open enrollment period for Medicare happens once a year between October 15 until December 7. This is the period when you are eligible to change your Medicare coverage, and you also have the option to switch between different Medicare plans. During this period you can:
- Join a new Medicare Advantage plan.
- Join a standalone prescription plan.
- Switch from a standard Medicare plan to a Medicare Advantage plan.
- Switch from an Advantage plan to a standard Medicare (with a prescription plan, as you’ll be losing the prescription coverage in the Advantage plan.
- Drop your prescription coverage.
Review Your Medical Coverage During Open Enrollment
You should take this opportunity during the open enrolment period to review your current coverage and look at other newly available plans. Have you received notice from your current plan that the coverage or premium is changing? Are there other plans that may be more beneficial? Are you getting the coverage you need? There may be other plans, especially prescription drug coverage, that pay more benefits and cost less than your current plan.
You should not have to do a lot of research to compare your current coverage with other plans that are available.
At WealthMap Financial Advisors, we have tools available to easily compare all Medicare health and prescription drug plans available to determine which plan will provide the best possible coverage for your needs.
Missing the OEP Deadline
If you want to make changes during the open enrollment period, but miss the deadline, you will have to wait until the next period to make changes to your plan. You may be eligible to make changes under the Special Enrollment Period under certain circumstances. These circumstances include losing enrollment in an insurance plan that is better than Medicare’s plan or you lose coverage from an employer-sponsored program. Medical expenses can cause us to dip deeply into our savings. It is beneficial to shop around for the Medicare plans that best meets our needs, especially for seniors living on a fixed income.