Just as the Friendly’s Jubilee Roll only happens once a year (remember those ads before the holidays?), Medicare’s open enrollment period happens once a year between October 15 and December 7.
Once you are on Medicare, one has the option to adjust their coverage for the coming year. This can be a useful option for those who may have recently changed medication, looking to save money, or switch plans for other reasons.
How does one find a new plan?
It shouldn’t take a ton of research to determine what your current coverage is and what options are available for you during this coming enrollment period. You should receive information from the government regarding your current Medicare coverage each year. Even if your coverage hasn’t changed within the last few years, it’s important to still take time to review your current coverage and identify any areas for improvement.
There are tools available online or by phone to learn more about other plans if you’re thinking about switching or changing coverage. Medicare offers a Plan Finder tool online or you can call 1-800-MEDICARE to find out about new Advantage plans in your area. Or, check out the State Health Insurance Assistance Program site to find help in your state.
Are there any limitations on changing plans?
You must be currently enrolled in a plan.
If you have not signed up for Medicare, your period to do so runs between the three months before and three months after you turn 65.1
Miss this initial enrollment period? You can’t sign up for Medicare during the open enrollment period beginning in October. However, you can sign up during Medicare’s general enrollment period, which runs from January 1 through March 31.1
Are Changes Made During This Open Enrollment Effective Immediately?
No, the changes you elect to make during Medicare’s open enrollment period will not go into effect until January 1, 2022.
What Changes Can Be Made During Medicare’s Open Enrollment?
During the open enrollment period, you are eligible to change your Medicare coverage, and you also have the option to switch between different Medicare plans. Below are few coverage options you can choose to add, drop or adjust depending on your needs for the new year.
Medigap is a supplemental insurance policy designed to help cover the costs of certain medical expenses that Medicare doesn’t cover. Your Medigap policy may cover expenses such as:
- Medical care when traveling abroad2
Whether you’ve had Medigap coverage in the past or you’d find it beneficial moving forward, you can adjust, add or drop your Medigap coverage during open enrollment.
Medicare Advantage is a type of healthcare plan offered by private companies contracted through Medicare. Most major carries such as Blue Cross offer these plans.
Medicare Advantage plans are popular as they can provide for a lower cost option than the traditional Medicare Part A and Part B plan.
With an Advantage plan, it offers Part A (Hospitalization) and Part B (Medical Insurance) and can include a Part D (prescriptions) piece. They might even include vision and dental coverage.
Even though a Medicare Advantage plan may seem cheaper premium wise, bear in mind, there can be limitations to an Advantage plan such as higher overall costs and only covering certain doctors. Been diagnosed with something and you want to be seen at Mass General even though you live in Florida? There can be restrictions on your choice of hospital or doctor.
I recommend reading the fine print carefully.
During open enrollment (and only during open enrollment unless special circumstances arise ), you can choose to switch back to an original Medicare plan, if you found that Medicare Advantage did not fit your needs.
You can also switch to a Medicare Advantage plan from an original Medicare plan during this period. You will have several choices from many providers when it comes to choosing a Medicare Advantage plan. Bear in mind the caveats I mention above before switching plans.
Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Plan)
If you are utilizing a Medicare Advantage plan, this may not apply to you. But for those who have an original Medicare plan, it’s important to check for changes to your Part D coverage every year. Coverage through your plan can change yearly, and your prescription needs may change as well (I’ve had more than one client tell me a drug they were taking was no longer being covered). Make sure your current plan has your needs covered through the next year. If not, now’s the time to look around for new coverage.
Medical expenses could add up quickly, especially if a recent medication changed was ordered by your doc. Use this time to shop around for any changes that could be beneficial for the upcoming year.
Medicare can be tricky.
As always, when making big financial decisions, it is always best to speak with and take the advice of a Certified Financial Planner® practitioner. Any questions, we are here to help you figure it all out.
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All the best.
Rick Fingerman, CFP®, CDFA™, CCFS®
Financial Planning Solutions, LLC (FPS) is a Registered Investment Advisor. Financial Planning Solutions, LLC (FPS) provides this blog for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, tax, or legal advice. FPS only renders personalized advice to each client. Information herein includes opinions and source information that is believed to be reliable. However, such information may not be independently verified by FPS. Please see important disclosures link at the bottom of this page.