How Should I Prepare for Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period? 

Original Medicare insurance is available to seniors in the United States age 65 and over as well as some disabled individuals under 65. When you become eligible for Medicare benefits, you select coverage options from among the different plans offered in your state. Although the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) ultimately governs the Medicare insurance program, individual states can also regulate insurance products sold within their borders.

You typically have a seven-month period, known as your Initial Enrollment Period, in which to sign up for Medicare benefits when you become eligible. This period covers the three months before and following the month you turn 65 as well as your birthday month. If you find that you want to make changes to your Medicare coverage after your Initial Enrollment Period, you may need to wait until Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period each year.

What is Medicare Open Enrollment?

Medicare Open Enrollment is a period of time between October 15th and December 7th of each year during which you can make changes to your Medicare benefits. During this time, you can switch Part D plans, switch Medicare Advantage plans, drop Original Medicare and enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or drop your MA plan and revert to Original Medicare (and add Part D prescription drug coverage). The Open Enrollment Period can be very beneficial if your healthcare or budget needs have changed since you initially enrolled in Medicare. 

How should I prepare for Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period?

Preparing for Medicare Open Enrollment should include discussing your current and anticipated healthcare needs with your doctor. CMS releases plans for the upcoming year at the beginning of October of each year. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you will receive an Annual Notice of Change document. With these things in mind, you can make Medicare coverage decisions during OEP that will best meet your needs.  

It would also be a good idea to take a look at your prescription medications to ensure that your Part D coverage is sufficient. Healthcare needs change throughout the year for many seniors, and prescriptions may get added or removed over time. Making note of your current prescriptions and any that have been dropped since last year may change the coverages you require.

If you’ve assessed your needs after speaking with your doctor and determined that you do need to change plans, working with an independent Medicare coverage agent may also be beneficial. Evaluating available plans in your area may be easier if you work with a licensed Medicare insurance professional who can help you impartially shop plans based on your needs and preferences. 

What is Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment?

While preparing for Medicare Open Enrollment, you may hear people talk about a period between January 1st and March 31st called Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment.

This period is only for Medicare recipients who already have Medicare Advantage plans. During this period, you can only make one change to your Medicare Advantage coverage. During this time you can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan, with or without prescription drug coverage, to another Medicare Advantage plan, with or without prescription drug coverage. You can also drop your MA plan and revert back to Original Medicare. 

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