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5 Things You Need to Know About Medicare’s Open Enrollment

5 Things You Need to Know About Medicare’s Open Enrollment

Medicare’s Open Enrollment season occurs every single year from October 15 through December 7. This is the window of time in which you can make changes or sign up for a Medicare Part D drug plan or private Medicare Advantage plan.

This time of year is almost like a presidential election – you’re likely getting bombarded by advertisements from popular Medicare Advantage companies who want you to enroll in their amazing new plan.

From television commercials to radio spots to an overflowing mailbox, it can get overwhelming. More importantly, you can start to question whether you have the best plan.

If any of this is sounding familiar, here are the 5 things you really need to know about Medicare’s Open Enrollment.

1. The fall open enrollment season has no bearing on your Medicare Supplement plan.

It’s true that if you don’t sign up for or switch Medicare Part D drug plans between October 15 and December 7, in general, you’re stuck. You typically cannot make changes or sign up for a new plan until next fall. (The only exceptions are if you're turning 65 and are newly eligible for Medicare Part B or if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.)

However, that’s not the case for Medicare Supplement plans.

You can make changes to your Medicare Supplement at any time throughout the year, though the most common time is around your policy anniversary date. You might also shop the market if your plan just had a big rate increase.

Regardless, your Medicare Supplement is not directly affected by the Medicare Open Enrollment season. Many choose to review their supplement during this time because they’re meeting with their agent anyway to review their drug plan, but that’s entirely up to you!

2. The fall open enrollment season is for January 1 enrollments.

Any drug or health plans you sign up for between October 15 and December 7 will take effect starting January 1st of the next year.

For example, let’s say you currently have a WellCare drug plan. You meet with your agent on October 20th and find that a Cigna drug plan will actually save you money. You’ll complete your enrollment on October 20th, but that plan won’t go into effect until January 1st.

The same goes for Medicare Advantage plans. The fall open enrollment season is for the following year’s enrollments.

3. You can compare drug plans using Medicare.gov’s Plan Finder tool.

If you like to take the bull by the horns, you’ll enjoy that you have the ability to search drug plans on your own.

Starting on October 1st of each year, the available drug plans will be viewable on the Plan Finder tool. You won’t be able to actually enroll in them until October 15th, though.

Once October 15th comes around, you’re free to compare plans on Medicare’s website and even complete the enrollment on your own.

Our agents here at Sams/Hockaday are more than happy to lend a helping hand if you’re not comfortable with the Plan Finder tool, or perhaps you just want a second opinion.

In any case, the Plan Finder was revamped in 2019 and is a lot easier to navigate. Michael Sams put together a tutorial showing you how to use the system and how to find your cheapest plan: Signing Up for a Medicare Part D Drug Plan Is Easy.

4. In most cases, you can get out of your Medicare Advantage plan after the open enrollment season is over.

In a perfect world, you’d be thrilled with your new Medicare Advantage plan. However, it happens – you realize after it’s too late that your favorite doctor doesn’t accept your plan, or maybe you didn’t fully understand the deductible or copays.

Whatever the case may be, you can get out of your Medicare Advantage plan between January 1 and March 31 (with the exception of an MSA). This is called the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP), and during this time, you can generally switch from one plan to another, or you can go back to Original Medicare with or without a Part D drug plan.

While some changes aren’t so easily reversible, do know that you have an out if something happens and you realize you made the wrong choice.

5. Medicare’s Open Enrollment has nothing to do with other Open Enrollments.

There’s a lot of lingo when it comes to Medicare, and the fall open enrollment season is no exception.

We typically call the time between October 15th and December 7th the AEP, which is short for Annual Enrollment Period.

However, you’ll also hear people call it Medicare Open Enrollment, perhaps Medicare Enrollment Period… maybe even Medicare’s Fall Enrollment Season.

No matter what you call it, this period of time where you can make changes to your Medicare health and drug plans has nothing to do with other Open Enrollments.

For example, the federal Marketplaces, also called the Exchanges, have Open Enrollments for people under age 65. While the time period might overlap with Medicare’s enrollment period, they are totally separate and have nothing to do with each other.

After age 65, all you need to focus on is October 15-December 7. That’s our sweet spot for making changes or signing up for Medicare drug plans and possibly a Medicare Advantage plan.

Make the Most of Medicare’s Open Enrollment Season!

This is a great time to re-evaluate your plans – make the most of the opportunity before it’s too late!

Plans change each and every year, so even if you’re happy with your drug or health plan now, it doesn’t mean you’ll love it next year.

You can read more about the changes you can make during the Annual Enrollment Period, your goals for this time, and also how we can make the process easier here: What You Need to Know About the 2020 Medicare Open Enrollment and AEP.

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