Medicare Open Enrollment: What You Need To Know To Make Informed Decisions

Medicare Open Enrollment: What Is It?

Also known as the annual coordinated election period or annual election period (AEP), Medicare open enrollment is an enrollment window that allows the enrollees of the Medicare plan to reevaluate their existing Medicare coverage and make changes where necessary. The AEP starts from October 15 to December 7 every year.

However, there are extended enrollment opportunities for people living in areas where FEMA declares a major disaster or emergency that can make it difficult for the enrollees to complete signing up during the normal window. Other important Medicare enrollment periods are the initial enrollment period (IEP) and the special enrollment period (SEP). The IEP occurs when you turn 65, whereas, the SEP is for those who lose employer-based health coverage after age 65.

It is easy to know when Medicare open enrollment starts. Nevertheless, starting the process can be tedious, that is why you need to check out these facts to make an informed decision.

What You Can Do During the AEP

The following are the things you can do during the AEP:

• Enrolling in a Medicare prescription drug plan

• Changing from one Medicare Advantage plan to another

• Quitting your coverage of Medicare prescription drug

• Moving from a Medicare Advantage plan that incorporates drug coverage to one that does not, or vice versa

• Switching from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare, or vice versa

• Moving from one Medicare drug plan to another that is different

It is important to note that if you go back to the Original Medicare plan during the AEP and want Medigap, also known as Medicare Supplement Insurance, you may find yourself paying more for the supplement policy than expected. In the worst-case scenario, you may not be given coverage.

What You Cannot Do During Medicare Open Enrollment

Since the AEP is particularly for people who already are enrolled in Medicare, you cannot sign up for it if you are not enrolled in Medicare. Those who qualify should enroll in Medicare during the SEP, IEP, or the general enrollment period of Medicare.

Types of Medicare Coverage Available During Medicare Open Enrollment

1. Original Medicare

It consists of Part A, also known as hospital insurance, and Part B, also referred to as medical insurance. Before you select additional coverage options, you have to sign up for these two parts first. After that, you will pay the part B premium. During the AEP, you can change to Original Medicare if you already have a Medicare Advantage plan.

2. Medicare Part C

Medicare Part C is also known as a Medicare Advantage plan, and it is issued by private insurers who sell it as an alternative to Original Medicare. Part C may provide you with extra benefits, such as some coverage for vision and dental care. Moreover, the policies of Part C normally incorporate the coverage of Medicare Part D prescription drug into the plan.

3. Medicare Part D

Private insurers also administer Part D, which is an optional program to cover the cost of prescription drugs. It is important to note that you may be penalized if you go without the coverage of Medicare drug or other coverage of creditable prescription drugs for at least 63 consecutive days.

4. Medigap Plans

Medigap plans are also referred to as Medicare Supplement Insurance plans, and they are to help pay a percentage of high costs incurred with Parts A and B. If you have Original Medicare, you can carry out the application for Medigap at any time. You should, however, note that applicants are only eligible for a policy during their Medigap open enrollment period that runs for six months and starts the first month you reach 65 years or older and have signed up for Medicare Part B.

You should also note that you automatically qualify for parts A and B the month you turn 65 if you have claimed Railroad Retirement Board or Social Security benefits before you reach 65. While the Part A plan is attached to Social Security benefits, Part B is not, hence, you can opt out of it if you have enrolled in other qualifying health insurance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Medicare Open Enrollment

In case I change my coverage at the start of Medicare open enrollment, am I allowed to change my mind before the deadline?

Yes. During the AEP, there is no restriction on the number of changes you can make. Needless to say, you can change your mind and go for a different plan later in Medicare open enrollment. In the AEP, the last plan selection you go for is the plan that takes effect on January 1.

What can I do to fix a mistake if I make one when changing my coverage during the AEP?

In the unfortunate event that you make a mistake when changing your coverage while Medicare open enrollment is ongoing, simply choose a different plan by December 7. Your new selection will take effect on January 1.            

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