Because You Asked: What Does “Open Enrollment” Mean for Medicare?

Open Enrollment for Medicare begins on October 15th of each year, and runs through December 7th

If you have already signed up for Medicare and are happy with your Plan(s), you do not have to do or change anything.  However, this can be a good time to review your plan and make sure you are happy with the coverage and costs you are paying.  Drawing from your Medicare and You Handbook, these are the things you can elect to do during this Open Enrollment period:

  • Change from Original Medicare (A, B, D + Medicare Supplement) to a Medicare Advantage
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare.
  • Switch to a different Medicare Supplement/Medigap plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan without prescription drug coverage (which means you had to carry a separate Part D or Prescription Drug coverage plan) to one that includes Prescription Drug coverage.
  • Join a new Medicare Prescription Drug plan.
  • Drop your Medicare Prescription Drug plan completely- this is not recommended, because if you drop it, and then add it back later, you will pay a higher premium based on each month that you did not have prescription drug coverage.

There is a second enrollment period from January 1 through March 31st

During this period, you can:

  • Change from Medicare Advantage back to Original Medicare, but note that you cannot do the reverse and switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage during this enrollment period. You would have to wait for the next Open Enrollment period in October.
  • Purchase a Prescription Drug Plan to supplement Original Medicare, if you are switching back to Original Medicare. If you already have a Prescription Drug plan, you cannot change it during this enrollment period; you would have to wait until the next October open enrollment period.
  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan from an existing Medicare Advantage Plan; again, that would have to wait until the following October.

It can be confusing to keep track of the enrollment periods and what you can and cannot do.  Fortunately, once you have at least completed the initial (first-time) enrollment, you do not have to change anything at all, but it could be well worth your time to do a bit of research to find out if there are cost savings that can be achieved by modifying your current plan(s).

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