Medicare Enrollment: Get Prepared

medicare enrollment, medicare advantage, part D, medigap, Medicare open enrollment

Medicare enrollment can be a stressful process. But if you are prepared, it will be smooth sailing.

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. 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 sent from your plan. Your Medicare Advantage plan and Part D plan are required to send you this by September 30 of each year. Toward the beginning of the packet should be a list of your current coverage and what is changing for next year. 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.

What you can do during Medicare open enrollment

Medicare enrollment doesn’t have to be complicated. During Medicare open enrollment, which runs every fall from October 15 – December 7, 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.

Note: 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 enrolling in 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.

If you are still working

If you are still working and your group plan has more than 20 employees, you can remain under your employer’s insurance and enroll in Medicare when coverage ends without a penalty through a special enrollment period. However, if your group plan has fewer than 20 employees, then you should enroll in Medicare.

Take some time to understand the plan you currently have so you’ll know be prepared once fall comes. You could save lots of money each month by choosing the plan that’s most beneficial for you and your needs.

Find the right plan

To see what plans are available to you, call 1-800-MEDICARE, visit Medicare’s Plan Finder, or contact an 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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