Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment
  • January 27, 2021
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How to Make Smart Choices During the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment

Medicare Advantage Plans are an important and increasingly popular path to getting Medicare benefits. In fact, around 25 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare Advantage (also commonly referred to as Medicare Part C). However, like any healthcare plan, there may come a time when the plan you are enrolled in no longer fits your needs. For this very situation, Medicare offers two opportunities to make changes to your health care coverage, The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) and The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP).  The Annual Enrollment Period ended December 7th, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. The good news is, OEP is happening now.  Let’s take a look at how the Medicare Advantage Open enrollment works and how you can make smart choices to ensure you receive the right coverage for your needs.

What is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period is when Medicare Advantage beneficiaries can adjust or make changes to their existing plans.  It is important to note, this enrollment period is only available to those who are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.

When is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?

The Medicare Advantage open enrollment period runs from January 1 to March 31 each year.

What changes can be made during MA – OEP?

Medicare Advantage beneficiaries can make the following changes during the MA – OEP:

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan that does or does not include drug coverage
  • Go back to Original Medicare and/or join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (as a standalone plan).

Changes that are not allowed during OEP:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan if you’re in Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another if you’re in Original Medicare.

Changes made during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period will become effective on the first day of the month following the changes.

How to Make Smart Choices During the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment

There are many reasons why Medicare Advantage enrollees change their coverage during OEP.  One common reason is they chose a plan during the Annual Enrollment Period not realizing their doctor or medication wasn’t covered. Some individuals also may have missed the opportunity to change their plan during fall enrollment.  Whatever the case may be, it’s best to fully be prepared to ensure you make a wise choice.  Here’s what we recommend:

1. Review your Current Coverage

Each year before the annual enrollment period Medicare Advantage plans send out an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)  letter to all enrollees.  This letter outlines upcoming changes to their plans for the following year.  If you haven’t had a chance to review the changes, now is the time to do so.  Some plans change doctor & pharmacy networks, formularies, premiums, and more.   While reviewing your coverage ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have my health needs changed from last year?
  • Are my doctors still covered?
  • Are my prescription drugs still covered?
  • Have my out of pocket costs increased?

2. Compare Plans

If you find yourself unhappy with your current coverage, or if you would like to see what new plans are available in your area it’s best to compare multiple plans.  Here are some items to consider when comparing coverage:

  • Does another plan in your area offer better coverage?
  • Are your doctors covered by a new plan?
  • Are your prescription drugs covered by a new plan?
  • Does the plan offer extra benefits (fitness, vision, dental, etc)?

3. Seek Help from an Independent Insurance Agent

If you find yourself confused while reviewing your coverage and comparing plans, or if you would like input from a professional regarding your plan options it’s best to seek advice from an independent insurance agent.  Independent insurance agents have access to multiple plans from a wide range of carriers which allows them to provide unbiased options for your health coverage. The best part?  Their service is free!

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