Just as millions of seniors rely on Social Security for income in retirement, Medicare is another important program for older Americans. As you approach retirement, understanding the government's health insurance program can help you get the best and most affordable medical coverage. And with the annual open enrollment period opening up in just a few days, it's important that you take advantage of this crucial seven-week period.
Here are some essential things to know about Medicare open enrollment.
What is Medicare Open Enrollment?
Medicare open enrollment period is an annual window that takes place each fall, where Medicare plan enrollees can reevaluate their current medical coverage and make changes if they want to.
There are three open periods where you can make changes to medicare enrollment—the Annual Enrollment Period, the Medical Advantage Open Enrollment Period, and the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period. But the annual enrollment period gives you the most flexibility with changes.
When Is the Annual Medicare Open Enrollment?
The annual Medicare open enrollment begins on October 15 and ends on December 7. During this 7-week window, you can examine your current plan and switch to a new one if you desire. Any changes made during this enrollment window will take effect on January 1.
Who Is Eligible?
It's important to note that Medicare’s open enrollment period is only for existing enrollees—those who are currently signed up in a Medicare plan.
If you're new to Medicare and wondering how to sign up for benefits, there's an initial enrollment period beginning 3 months before your 65th birthday month and ending three months after it—in total a 7-month period.
We covered more details of the different enrollment periods in this article.
What Can You Do During Open Enrollment?
During this annual Medicare enrollment period, you can make changes to your medical coverage plan for the coming year. You can also leave or switch to a different plan that better meets your needs. For example:
- You can switch from Original Medicare Plan (Part A and Part B) to a Medicare Advantage Plan
- Change to another Medicare Advantage Plan or go back to Original Medicare Plan
- You may be able to add Medicare Supplement Insurance Coverage (Medigap) if you switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare
- You could add Medicare Part D to your Original Medicare plan or enroll in Medicare Part D if you didn't enroll when you were first eligible for Medicare.
Reasons Why People Switch Plans
The open enrollment period provides an excellent opportunity to switch medicare plans, and most people take it up for several reasons. They may be unhappy with their current plans due to policy changes, an increasing monthly premium, tired of copays at doctor's visits, or need a plan option with better coverage and value.
Whatever reasons you may have to switch or enroll in a different plan, it's essential to compare your options side-by-side to find the best fit for your health and budget needs.
Questions to Ask During This Period
Before heading into the open enrollment, there are questions to consider about your current coverage. Finding answers to these questions can help you know what to look out for and make the best choice for your health plan.
- What new Medicare plans will be available in 2023?
The coverages and costs of Medicare plans change each year. However, we recommend that you take time to review your options and compare rates to ensure you're getting the best deals.
- How would I know if my Medicare benefits are changing in 2023?
There's an Annual Notice of Change document you should receive from your Medicare Advantage or Part D plan carrier. This document will tell you what benefits, if any, are changing in the upcoming year. After reviewing the document, you may decide to stick with your plan or switch to another plan that better suits your needs.
- Does my current coverage match my medical needs?
When reviewing plans, you should consider the cost of healthcare and insurance, especially if your medical situation has changed. For instance, if you think you may need more medical care next year, a more expensive Medicare Advantage plan with more coverage can help you reduce your total healthcare costs.
- Should I change Medicare plan types?
If you're unhappy with your current Medicare coverage, you can switch to any other one during open enrollment.
- I have gaps in my prescription drug coverage. What should I do?
You can switch to a plan that has better coverage for your medications. This can include changing companies to access a different drug formulary or changing plans to get more benefits.
- Can I make more than one change during this enrollment window?
Yes, you can make multiple changes to your medical coverage during the annual enrollment window. The fall Medicare enrollment period is more flexible than other open enrollment periods, like the Medicare Advantage enrollment period, where you can only make one change.
To review your plan and make changes during the enrollment period, go to https://www.medicare.gov/ and log into your account.
Don’t Wait - Get Started on Your Medicare Plans
Understanding medicare can seem overwhelming. Still, it's worth reviewing your health plans, as it is one of the most significant retirement benefits you can get from the government.
Medicare is an important piece of your ideal retirement plan, and working with a long-term financial planner enables you to address the full spectrum of your retirement planning needs, including healthcare, estate planning, and of course, financial planning.
Learn more about the seven things you need to do before you retire with our Essential Retirement Planning Guide
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