What Are My Options for Medicare Open Enrollment?
Medicare Open Enrollment (also known as Medicare Fall Open Enrollment or Medicare Annual Election Period) runs from October 15 to December 7. During this time, you can make changes to your existing Medicare health and drug coverage. The key to maximizing this yearly open enrollment opportunity starts with knowing your options.
Medicare plans, coverage, and costs can change every calendar year. The Medicare Open Enrollment period is when you can reevaluate and switch your Medicare coverage, including your supplemental drug coverage, or move to or from a private Medicare Advantage plan. Any changes you make during Medicare Open Enrollment become effective on Jan. 1, 2022.
Evaluate Your Current Medicare Coverage
Your current Medicare or Medicare Advantage Plan should have sent you an Evidence of Coverage (EOC) or Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) in September. You should review this notice for any adjustments in your plan’s costs, benefits, and/or rules. Once you fully understand what’s in your current Medicare plan, ask yourself:
- Does it meet my current health needs?
- Can I see my doctor, or do I need to find a new one?
- Can I use my preferred hospitals and specialists?
- Does it cover my prescriptions?
- Does it fit my budget?
The answers to these questions will determine whether you should keep your current plan or look for something else. Here are some options for choosing your coverage during Medicare Open Enrollment:
Option #1: Keep the Medicare Plan You Have
After you’ve reviewed the benefits of your current Medicare plan, if you like what you see, you don’t have to do anything. Your current coverage will continue into the following year. You don’t need to take any action or inform Medicare or your plan.
Option #2: Move to a Medicare Advantage Plan
If you’re currently enrolled in Original Medicare, you can move to a Medicare Advantage plan, also known as Part C. Medicare Advantage plans bundle Medicare Part A, Part B, and Part D into an all-in-one plan with additional benefits, including vision, hearing, and dental. Medicare Advantage plans can provide lower out-of-pocket costs, but you might be limited to seeing the providers in the plan network and you might not have access to the medications of your choice.
Before you change, take the time to compare the different Medicare Advantage plans to be sure you’re choosing one with the right coverage, costs, and access to providers.
Option #3: Go Back to Original Medicare
If you don’t need the added coverage that comes with Medicare Advantage or if you prefer the Original Medicare that lets you see any healthcare provider who accepts Medicare, you can go back to Original Medicare during Open Enrollment.
Original Medicare includes Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). It’s important to know that Medicare Part D (Medicare drug plan) is separate.
If you decide to move back to Original Medicare during Open Enrollment, you can also purchase a Medicare Supplement plan, or Medigap policy, to pay for gaps in Medicare coverage.
Option #4: Switch to Another Medicare Advantage Plan
If you’re happy with your current Medicare Advantage plan but would like to take the opportunity to shop around for better coverage or lower costs, you can use the Open Enrollment period to compare your existing plan with other plans.
Be sure to compare different plan options like copays and deductibles, participating doctors and hospitals, dental and vision coverage, and coverage while traveling.
Also, consider the plan quality rating. Medicare gives ratings for plan care quality, with the highest being five stars.
Option #5: Add or Change Drug Coverage
If you didn’t enroll in a Medicare Part D plan when you were first eligible, you can use the Medicare Open Enrollment period to enroll in a Part D plan now, although there might be associated late fees or penalties.
Compare Your Medicare Options with AgeFriendly.org
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