October heralds the onset of autumn, but for seniors on Medicare, it signifies the commencement of open enrollment. The enrollment period for this program is from October 15th to December 7th every year. Here are some key points to consider during this period:
#1 For Current Enrollees Only:
The initial window for Medicare enrollment opens three months before and closes three months after the month of your 65th birthday, providing a seven-month timeframe for enrollment. However, the open enrollment period is solely for existing Medicare enrollees to review and amend their coverage. If you haven’t enrolled in Medicare yet due to age or a preference for your current group health plan, this period doesn’t apply to you.
#2 Amendments to Part D Plan:
If you’re dissatisfied with your current Part D drug plan, the open enrollment period is an opportune time to switch to a new plan. Here’s how to approach this:
- First, review any changes to your existing plan outlined by the administrator. This is important, as your plan may have improved, which could affect your decision to keep it.
- Secondly, evaluate different plans based on your medication needs. Medicare Part D plans categorize drugs into various tiers, affecting your out-of-pocket expenses. It’s prudent to compare these to identify potential savings.
- Lastly, consider the plan ratings. Medicare employs a star rating system for Part D drug plans, where five stars denote excellence. While ratings shouldn’t be the sole determinant, they can be a deciding factor between two comparable plans.
- Remember, if you switch from Original Medicare with a Medigap policy to a Medicare Advantage Plan, you won’t be able to keep both. It’s important to note that if you return to Original Medicare, you may have limited options for purchasing a Medigap policy to help with your out-of-pocket costs. It’s also worth mentioning that the rules for purchasing a Medigap policy may vary by state. It’s best to contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to learn about state-specific Medigap rights.
#3 Early Research is Beneficial:
Although the deadline for making changes extends till early December, it’s advisable to commence your research early. Not only can changes to Part D coverage be made during open enrollment, but transitions to or from Medicare Advantage or between different Advantage plans are possible. These decisions are crucial as they could significantly impact your health and finances. When you begin exploring your options as soon as open enrollment begins in mid-October, you will have ample time to weigh your options without feeling rushed.
#4 How to make changes to your Medicare health and drug coverage.
If you need to make changes to your Medicare coverage, the government provides some useful services that you can use. You can call 1-800-MEDICARE to make changes by phone, or you can visit www.medicare.gov to compare different options and enroll in some plans online. You can enroll or learn about covered services by contacting the plans directly. It is important to confirm everything that a plan tells you before making a final decision and get everything in writing.
Before joining a plan, ensure that your doctors are in the provider network for the plan you want to join by contacting them. If you need help reviewing your options or making changes, you can contact your SHIP. The government funds SHIPs to provide trusted and unbiased Medicare counseling. For SHIP, call 877-839-2675.
Open enrollment is a pivotal time for Medicare enrollees, and maximizing its benefits could lead to substantial healthcare savings in 2024. It’s crucial to use this time wisely to make informed decisions about Medicare coverage.