If you’re facing changes to your provider network, overwhelmingly high out-of-pocket costs, or experiencing health complications, it may be time to take advantage of Medicare open enrollment. You can change your health insurance coverage based on your current health and life circumstances during this period. Here’s how to take advantage of this small window of opportunity.
Every year, between October 15 and December 7, you can join, switch, or drop a Medicare plan. This roughly two-month period is what is referred to as the open enrollment period for Original Medicare. Meanwhile, open enrollment for Medicare Advantage plans is from January 1 to March 31 of each year. During this time, you can switch to a different plan or Original Medicare.
There are numerous reasons why you may need a new plan during open enrollment.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, also known as Medicare Part C, your care is restricted to a specific geographic area. As such, moving to a new city or state will likely be difficult to find in-network providers with your plan. Plus, visiting an out-of-network provider typically results in high co-insurance costs.
Two of the most common forms of Medicare Advantage plans are health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and preferred provider organizations (PPOs). These plans offer lists of providers that participate in your network. However, this network is subject to change every year.
Before renewing your Part C plan, ensure your preferred providers and favorite healthcare facilities are still in-network. Another thing to consider is your list of covered medications. If your plan changes and excludes certain or all prescriptions, you’ll likely want to change the type of coverage you have during Medicare open enrollment.
If your health has changed, like being diagnosed with a new condition, you will probably have new treatment needs. Before keeping the same coverage or changing plans, make sure any specialists or medications you need are included.
Medicare Advantage plans already provide more coverage than Original Medicare. However, even if you’re already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan with ancillary benefits like transportation coverage, comparing other options is worthwhile.
If you’ve determined you want to make changes to your Medicare Part C plan, you can do so easily.
Visit the Medicare.gov website and use the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services database to look for plans in your area to compare costs.
Another way to compare plan options is to speak with a trusted insurance provider. Often, they have vast networks and selections of plans to offer you, depending on your needs.
Once you’ve settled on the best coverage, it’s time to enroll! For Medicare Advantage plans, this takes place between January and March. During this time, if you have second thoughts or need to change your options, you can switch to a different plan. Remember, however, that you can only switch once during an enrollment period.
Your health and circumstances are always subject to change. The best thing you can do for yourself is to put your health first and make the right choice for your health insurance coverage.