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medicare open enrollment

Medicare Open Enrollment’s On the Way!

Medicare’s open enrollment period (also called the annual election period) runs from October 15 – December 7, and any changes made go into effect on January 1, 2019.

What you can do during Medicare open enrollment

During Medicare open enrollment, you can:

  • Make no changes, and keep your plan as it is
  • Switch from Medicare to Medicare Advantage
  • Switch from Medicare Advantage back to Medicare (you’ll need to add a Part D plan, and optionally a Medigap plan)
  • Change Medicare Advantage plans
  • Change Part D plans, sign up for Part D, or drop Part D

Medicare open enrollment doesn’t have to be stressful. The more you prepare, the more smoothly it will go. 

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4 Tips on preparing for open enrollment

Here are four tips on what to do to prepare yourself for any changes you need to make during this annual period. It is a good time to check in with your plan, as costs, coverage, providers, and pharmacies in your network can change each year.

  1. Talk with your doctor about the plan you currently have. Make sure they will still take Medicare if you have it, or that they will stay with your Medicare Advantage plan’s network if you have Medicare Advantage.
  2. Take the time to look over the Annual Notice of Change from your plan. Your Medicare Advantage plan and Part D plan are required to send this to you by September 30. If something big is changing that will affect your doctors or prescriptions, you may want to make some changes. 
  3. Make a detailed list of your medications, including the medication name listed on the pill bottle, the dosage, and how often you take it.
  4. Make a list of your current doctors and what they treat you for.

If your plan will no longer cover your doctor or your medications, or if the prices of your medications are going way up, it’s time to research your options. Be sure to focus on the total out of pocket costs and not simply the premium costs of your new plan. 

What’s new in 2018

Your Medicare Advantage Plan and Part D plan will not mail your Evidence of Coverage, but it will be available online by October 15. If you want a hard copy, you need to request one. Your plan should send you a Notification of Electronic Materials that will let you know what materials are available online and how to request hard copies. 

In late September or early October, you will also receive the Medicare & You handbook from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which outlines what Medicare covers and is a helpful resource through the enrollment process. 

A note about Medigap

If you plan to switch back to Medicare from Medicare Advantage and you want to add a Medigap plan, first make sure you get approved for Medigap. If not, consider switching to a different Medicare Advantage plan. Around the first of October, insurance agents are allowed to disclose any upcoming changes to plans and can start talking with you about making changes to your coverage.

A note about Part D

Even if you don’t take any medications at this time, it is a good idea to enroll in a Part D plan to avoid facing a lifetime penalty for late enrollment later on.

Find the right plan

To see what plans are available to you, call 1-800-MEDICARE, visit Medicare’s Plan Finder, or contact a licensed insurance agent who specializes in Medicare. Once you find a plan you like, visit its website and call to confirm the benefits it offers. When you talk to them, write down what they say and to whom you spoke, and keep a record of it.

If you need more help, contact your local SHIP. And stay tuned for updates and information throughout the 2018-19 open enrollment period.

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