Every fall, the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period allows seniors to prepare their Medicare coverage for the upcoming year. This is the Medicare enrollment period most beneficiaries are familiar with, as every aspect of Medicare coverage can be adjusted.
There is another, lesser known period where beneficiaries can make some changes called the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. This period runs from January 1st – March 31st of every year.
While this period is mainly for people who are on Medicare Advantage plans, there are adjustments that all Medicare beneficiaries can make during this time. Read on to find out what you can and cannot do!
What can I do during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?
You can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another Medicare Advantage plan.
Medicare Advantage plans change every year. If you either missed the Annual Enrollment period in the fall or you switched plans and are unhappy, this period gives you a chance to change your plan so you are not stuck in one that does not work for you for the rest of the year.
Common changes to Medicare Advantage plans include the doctors you want not being in the network, the out-of-pocket costs increasing, or new prescriptions not being covered by the plan you are on.
Switching from one Medicare Advantage plan to another can fix all of these issues above as long as you carefully research the new plan you join.
You can work with a broker, who represents multiple Medicare Advantage plans and will be able to easily match you. Cardinal offers this service.
You can switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare.
If you are on a Medicare Advantage plan and realize you want to go back to Original Medicare (Parts A & B), you can do this during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period.
Many people switch back to Original Medicare because they want the freedom to go to any doctor or hospital they choose, they do not want networks anymore.
While this option is the more expensive one, since you will also want to purchase a Medicare Supplement, the freedom it provides is worth it to many beneficiaires.
If you switch back to Original Medicare, you are also going to need to sign up for a Part D prescription drug plan. Drug coverage is included in Medicare Advantage plans, but it has to be bought separately if on Original Medicare.
For both the options above, your new coverage will begin the first day of the month after your new plan gets your request for coverage.
What can’t I do during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?
You cannot switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
If you are on Original Medicare, you are not allowed to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period.
The only time you can do this is during the Medicare Annual Enrollment period, which runs from October 15th – December 7th every year.
While you are not allowed to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during this time, if you are on Original Medicare and unhappy with your coverage, you can change your Medicare Supplement.
You actually can change your Medicare Supplement 365 days a year, there is no period you have to wait for.
Medicare Supplements are standardized, meaning if you have a Plan G with one company, a Plan G from another company offers the exact same benefits. The only difference between the two companies is the price they charge.
While you will have to answer some health questions to switch, working with a broker will allow you to understand what companies you qualify for before applying.
We recommend our clients look into changing their Medicare Supplement every 2 years. You can save $1,000s over your lifetime by just switching to a lower priced company every few years, and you get to keep the exact same coverage!
You cannot switch your Part D Prescription Drug Plan.
If you are on Original Medicare with a Part D plan, you cannot change your Part D plan during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period.
The only time you can switch your Part D coverage is during the Medicare Annual Enrollment period in the fall.
Like we mentioned above, the one exception to this rule is if you use this period to switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare. You are then allowed to sign up for a Part D plan since you lost your drug coverage.
Cardinal is here to help navigate you through all the Medicare periods and make sure you have the best coverage. We work mainly over the phone so that we can help clients all across the United States. Give us a call today!