What is Medicare open enrollment?
Medicare open enrollment is a period of time during which current Medicare users can re-evaluate and adjust their coverage. That may mean switching coverage, adding additional coverage, or dropping coverage. This year, Medicare open enrollment will take place between October 15 and December 7. Any new coverage or changes to coverage will begin January 1, 2017.
-If you have Medicare Parts A & B (Original Medicare), you can switch to a Part C plan (Medicare Advantage).
-If you have Medicare Part C, you can switch back to Parts A & B.
-If you have Medicare Part C, you can switch to a new Part C plan. If you have Medicare Parts A & B, you can join or drop a Part D prescription plan.
-If you have a Part D prescription plan, you can join a different Part D prescription plan.
-It also may be beneficial to re-evaluate your coverage during open enrollment if it would allow you to switch to better prescription care coverage, or allow you to keep the same doctor but spend less.
It also may be beneficial to re-evaluate your coverage during open enrollment if it would allow you to switch to better prescription care coverage, or allow you to keep the same doctor but spend less.
Even if you are content with your current level of Medicare coverage, it is worth using the open enrollment period to check the coverage you have and see what other options are available. Your health is always evolving, and so are your Medicare needs.
What to consider during open enrollment
-Your Health: Has your health changed since you first signed up for Medicare? It is important that your plan meets your current medical needs. If you are in need of more or less coverage, now is the time to make the change.
-Your Finances: Over the past year, did you struggle to afford your plan? Did you visit your healthcare provider frequently, leading you to exceed your plan’s coverage and pay high out-of-pocket costs? Think about how well your current plan meets your financial situation.
-How well has your plan been working for you? Are you happy with the flexibility of your current plan? Medicare Advantage (Part C) tends to limit you to providers near your home, whereas Original Medicare (Parts A & B) offers access to medical care across the country. If you plan to travel more or less than expected, open enrollment is the time to switch.
Thinking about healthcare isn’t always a priority. It can be easy to just keep things as they are rather than do the research required for selecting a new plan. However, doing so is a worthwhile venture; it may save you money and be beneficial to your overall health.
How to get help
If you need more general information on Medicare, check out WISER’s Medicare Basics fact sheet. The National Council on Aging also operates My Medicare Matters, a great resource that can walk you through your different Medicare options, costs, and understanding the enrollment process. The Medicare website similarly offers an online tool for shopping plans called the Medicare Plan Finder. If you would like personal help selecting a plan or have questions, call Medicare’s toll free number (1-800-633-4227) or the Medicare Rights Center (1-800-333-4114). Federally funded State Health Insurance Programs can also provide assistance. Find your local SHIP at www.shiptacenter.org or by visiting or calling the Eldercare Locator (1-800-677-1116, www.eldercare.gov).