Mastering Medicare: How To Prepare for Open Enrollment

Valencia Higuera Valencia Higuera is a writer from Chesapeake, Virginia. As a personal finance and health junkie, she enjoys all things related to budgeting, saving money, fitness, and healthy living.
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Medicare Open Enrollment: What You Need to Know

Medicare is a healthcare program you’ve been funding your whole working life. Once you are within three months of your 65th birthday, you become eligible to take advantage of the open enrollment period for Medicare and lower your healthcare costs. 

If you’re already enrolled, open enrollment is your window to switch from one plan to another. If you have Medicare Advantage, another Medicare plan, please note, there’s a second open enrollment period that only applies to Medicare Advantage plans. 

Medicare is your right as a US citizen so you won’t want to miss out. Don’t worry. All of this is easy once you break it down, which we do for you right here. 

First of all, what is Medicare open enrollment? 

The Medicare open enrollment period is similar to open enrollment in an employer-sponsored insurance plan or retirement plan. This is the time of year when you can do any of the following:

  • Make changes to Medicare coverage
  • Switch plans
  • Move from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan  

You can also:

  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t have drug coverage to one that does
  • Switch between other various drug plans
  • Add Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage
  • Drop your Medicare Part D coverage

When Is Medicare Open Enrollment?

Medicare open enrollment occurs annually from October 15 to December 7. You can only enroll between those dates.

When is Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment?

There are actually two periods of open enrollment for Medicare Advantage. The first one is the same as the one for Original Medicare. The second one runs from January 1st through March 31st.

The second open enrollment period only applies to those who already have  Medicare Advantage plans offering them the ability to make changes such as: 

  • Switching to another Medicare Advantage plan (with or without drug coverage)
  • Dropping Medicare Advantage and going  back to Original Medicare

What Exceptions Apply?

During this time, you are not allowed to:

  • Move from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan. This can only be done during the standard Medicare open enrollment period
  • Sign up for Part D if you are enrolled in Original Medicare.
  • Move between Part D prescription drug coverage plans if you are enrolled in Original Medicare.

This period is primarily designed to allow those with Medicare Advantage coverage to make changes only to Medicare Advantage. Original Medicare enrollees must wait for the next Medicare open enrollment period to make their changes

How Do You Know If You Need to Make Changes?

In some instances, you will already know if you need to make changes. One reason would be that  you can no longer afford the premiums with a particular prescription drug plan. There may be lower cost alternatives. 

If you’re not entirely sure whether you should make changes check out the following documents: 

  1. Evidence of Coverage. This tells you about your current plan and coverage . Use this to  compare your current coverage with other plans to see if there might be one  that better suits your health challenges, lifestyle, and budget.
  2. Annual Notice of Change(ANOC) This  alerts you to any changes that might be taking place in your current Medicare coverage in the coming year. This will help you make an informed decision about whether you should switch plans during open enrollment.

Note that you will also receive a new Medicare & You handbook in the mail just prior to the Medicare open enrollment period beginning. This details the coverage available, plans offered within your area, and other important information.

What Changes are Coming for 2020?

There are actually quite a few important changes coming in 2020, which means it’s more important than ever for you to take a deeper look  into your Medicare coverage options. 

Some of the changes to Medicare for 2020 include the following:

In Conclusion

Medicare open enrollment is a vital period for many people who need to make changes to their health coverage. Whether you’re looking for better coverage, want to add prescription drug coverage, or need to choose a more affordable plan, this is your chance to do that. 

We know it’s important for  you to go into this period with a good understanding of your current coverage, changes for the coming year that affect you, and what you need to make a solid decision for yourself and your family. 



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