If you’re aged 65 or over and you are currently enrolled in Medicare for your health care coverage, then you may be able to make changes to your plan during certain times of the year that are known as Medicare enrollment periods.
When you initially turned age 65, if you were already receiving retirement benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, then you were likely enrolled automatically in Medicare Parts A and B – which is also referred to as Original Medicare – provided that you met all of the eligibility criteria. But if you now want to make changes to your Medicare coverage, there are some parameters you’ll need to follow, starting with the time of year in which you are eligible to do so.
What You Need to Know About Annual Enrollment for Medicare
For those who are already enrolled in Medicare – which includes Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), or Medicare Advantage (also known as Medicare Part C) – most people can only make changes to their coverage at certain times of the year.
This can typically take place during the Medicare Annual Election Period, which is also oftentimes referred to as the Medicare annual enrollment period, or the open enrollment period. If a change is made to your coverage, your new plan will begin on January 1st of the following year.
Each year, the open enrollment period for Medicare runs from October 15th to December 7th. If you wish to make changes to your Medicare coverage and/or your Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, this can be a good time to do so.
However, it is important to be aware that, if you are considering making a change to Medicare Supplement coverage, this can be done at any time throughout the year – subject to underwriting criteria.
This means that, while the time frame for making changes to Medicare Supplement coverage can be flexible, if you have certain adverse health issues, you may be charged a higher rate of premium for your plan, or, depending on the situation, you may not be able to qualify for a new Medicare Supplement plan at all.
Allowable Coverage Changes During Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period
There are several types of coverage changes that can be made during the October 15th through December 7th Medicare open enrollment period. These include the following, based on the current coverage you have.
If you currently have Original Medicare (Part A and B coverage), then you could choose to:
- Switch to a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug coverage.
- Switch to a Medicare Advantage plan that does not include prescription drug coverage.
- Enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, if you do not already have one.
- Dis-enroll from your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, if you currently have one.
- Switch from one Medicare Part D prescription drug plan to another Part D prescription plan.1
Or, you could opt to keep your current Medicare Part A and B coverage, in which case, no additional action will be necessary.
If you are presently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (which is also known as Medicare Part C), you could choose from the following options during the Medicare annual enrollment period:
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another Medicare Advantage plan.
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan that does not offer coverage for prescription drugs to another Medicare Advantage plan that does.
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that offers prescription drug coverage to another Medicare Advantage plan that does not offer this type of coverage.
- Switch back over to Original Medicare coverage (Medicare Part A and Part B, along with the option to also add Medicare Part D for prescription drug coverage).2
As with the above, you could alternatively opt to simply stay with your current Medicare Advantage plan.
Changes to Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plans
If you are enrolled in Original Medicare, then you may have a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurance plan, or you might be considering the purchase of one. Currently, there are ten standardized Medicare Supplement insurance plans, each named after a different letter of the alphabet. We highly recommend Plan G, for reasons explained here.
How To Get Help
If you have any questions or would like to compare plans, then give us a call. We would love to hear from you. You can reach us directly at (800) 208-4974
Alex Wender is the founder and CEO of Bluewave Insurance. He has been blogging about Medicare-related topics since 2010. Since then, he and his agency have helped thousands of people across the country choose the right Medicare to fit their needs.