Medicare Open Enrollment 2018: What You Need to Know

It’s just 10 days away.

Medicare open enrollment season will begin on October 15, and here’s what you may be wondering about it:

What is Medicare open enrollment?

This is the time of year when Medicare beneficiaries can evaluate their healthcare coverage and make changes if necessary. During open enrollment, you can switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa. You can also make changes to your Medicare Advantage plans or Part D coverage.

How long will open enrollment run for?

Open enrollment begins October 15, and runs for a little less than two months, ending December 7. Any changes you make will take effect on the first of the new year.

Do I have to change my coverage?

The reason for open enrollment is that Medicare Advantage and Part D plans re-file their benefits with Medicare every year. That may cause your premiums and benefits to change for the coming year. Open enrollment, also called the Annual Election Period, was created to allow Medicare members the option to switch plans if they are unhappy with the changes.

If you’re satisfied with your coverage for the coming year, you do not need to do anything. In fact, most Medicare members don’t make any changes to their plans during open enrollment.

If you are on Original Medicare, your premiums and coverage won’t change much. The annual deductibles do rise slightly from year to year, but benefits otherwise stay the same. Medicare Advantage plans, on the other hand, can vary substantially from year to year. Your Part D drug plan benefits may also change drastically. If this is the case for you, now is the time to shop around for cheaper coverage.

How do I find out what my coverage will look like in 2019?

If you are a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D member, you should have received a document called an “Annual Notice of Change” at some point in the last month. This is a statement of what changes, if any, will be made to your 2019 premiums, co-payments, or networks.

It’s important to review this document, because there may be some important changes that will affect your healthcare. For example, if your Medicare Advantage plan is dropping your doctor from its network in the coming year, you’ll probably want to switch to a different provider that covers your doctor in-network.

Other things to look for are dramatic premium or deductible increases. You should expect small increases every year; that’s what happens with all insurance products. But if your expenses will rise a substantial amount, you may want to look for a better plan.

Which coverage can I change during open enrollment?

If you do nothing, your current coverage will renew automatically on January 1. Here are the changes you may make if you so choose:

  • Enroll in a Medicare Part D drug plan
  • Leave a Medicare Part D drug plan
  • Switch to a Medicare Part D drug plan administered by a different insurance company
  • Join Medicare Advantage
  • Leave Medicare Advantage and return to Original Medicare
  • Change from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another

You do not have the option to leave or switch Medigap plans. That’s because Medigap benefits don’t change annually like Medicare Advantage and Part D plans.

What’s the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?

Beginning 2019, a new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period will run annually from January 1 – March 31. During this additional period, you will be able to:

  • Change from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another
  • Leave Medicare Advantage and return to Original Medicare
  • Enroll in a Medicare Part D drug plan
  • Drop Medicare Part D coverage

You will not be able to switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage during this time.

If you are dissatisfied with your current coverage, or you don’t like the changes for the coming year, now is the time to compare plans and find the one best for you.

 

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