Medicare’s Open Enrollment period – also known as the Annual Election Period or Annual Coordinated Election Period – runs from October 15 through December 7. During this time all Medicare beneficiaries can reevaluate their coverage, and make changes, whether they are in Original/Traditional Medicare with separate Part D drug coverage, or in a private Medicare Advantage plan. Beneficiaries should review their coverage every year to determine if their current options meet their specific health care needs.
During the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, Medicare beneficiaries can:
- Change from a private Medicare Advantage plan and move to traditional Medicare, or vice-versa;
- Change from one private Medicare Advantage plan to another;
- Join a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan;
- Change from one Part D plan to another; or
- Drop Medicare Part D coverage entirely (provided they have other creditable coverage).
It is important to note when determining your best coverage options that open enrollment does not generally apply to Medigap plans, which are only guaranteed issue in most states during a beneficiary’s initial enrollment period, and during limited special enrollment periods.
Determining the coverage that is best for your specific health care needs can be complex, but here are several simple tips to help beneficiaries with their coverage decisions.
- Be ready with a list of all your health care conditions, prescription needs, and desired/necessary providers when you review your options.
- Make a note of any changes to income that might help you qualify for extra help with drug costs or Medicare co-pays.
- Watch your email for important notices from Medicare and Social Security. Read them carefully to be sure they are legitimate notices, and not private plan marketing junk mail.
- Review the 2022 Medicare & You handbook. The Handbook was posted online today (9/9/2021) in English, Spanish and a new Chinese version, with translations in Vietnamese and Korean coming in early October.
- If you are considering private plans for your coverage, rather than the universally accepted traditional Medicare program, be sure to review plan options on the Medicare Plan Finder.
- Finally, there is help available to navigate these decisions from your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Find contact information for your SHIP program at https://www.shiphelp.org/ (In CT, known as CHOICES, at (800) 994-9422.)
Above all, be sure to make the decisions that will best meet your health care coverage needs for the coming year. Remember that your status in October may not be where you find yourself next July.
September 9, 2021 – M. Shepard