Mar 01, 2020
While the Medicare enrollment period of October 15 – December 7 each year is widely promoted, this opportunity for people with Medicare Advantage plans is less well known. It runs from January 1 – March 31.
Only persons currently enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans may participate in this open enrollment. Medicare Advantage plans often have lower premiums than original Medicare. They often offer extra benefits, such as vision, dental, prescription drug coverage, and wellness benefits. However, the members must agree to use the plan’s network of health care providers in a specific geographic area – similar to employer-based group health care. Medicare Advantage plans can change benefits and drugs covered each year. Additionally, doctors and other health care providers can drop out of the network at any time.
During this open enrollment period of January 1 – March 31, Medicare Advantage members can switch to a different Advantage plan or drop Medicare Advantage and return to original Medicare. If returning to original Medicare, you will need to purchase a Part D prescription plan and may want to purchase supplemental Medicap coverage for deductibles and copays Medicare does not cover.
A few words of caution if planning to go back to original Medicare:
1) it is recommended you apply for your new Medigap policy several weeks before you drop the Medicare Advantage plan. People who apply for a Medigap policy after their initial enrollment period around their 65th birthday, are subject to medical underwriting and can be charged more for a Medigap policy or be denied coverage completely. It is best to have Medigap coverage secured before dropping your Medicare Advantage plan, and
2) as soon as you apply for Part D prescription drug coverage, you are automatically disenrolled from your Medicare Advantage plan. Do not apply for Part D before you have secured a Medicap policy, if you want one.
If you are unhappy with your current Medicare Advantage plan, you can call 1-800-MEDICARE for assistance, set up a personal account at medicare.gov where you can setup a personal plan finder, or work with a Medicare insurance broker for free help as brokers are paid by the insurance companies.