When can one enroll in Medicare?
Did you know that there are specific times throughout the calendar year when you can enroll in Medicare or make changes to an existing Medicare plan? These times are known as enrollment periods. There are four main enrollment periods throughout the course of a year.
The Initial Enrollment Period occurs as soon as you turn 65 or otherwise qualify for Medicare through disability or disease. The Open Enrollment Period occurs between January 1 through March 31 at the start of each year. Special Enrollment Periods are granted in the event that you move to a new location or if a new 5-star Medicare Advantage plan becomes available in your area.
The upcoming Medicare enrollment period is known as the Annual Enrollment Period, or AEP. This period occurs between October 15 and December 7 at the end of each year, and is the ideal time to make changes to your existing plan if you desire.
What changes can I make to my Medicare plan during the AEP?
Depending on your level of current Medicare coverage, there are several actions you may wish to take during the Annual Enrollment Period. When you make changes to your plan during the AEP, these changes go into effect beginning January 1 the following year.
If you wish to make changes to your plan during AEP, first take a look at your current Medicare coverage and ask yourself the following questions:
Does your loved one only have Original Medicare?
If you only have Original Medicare Parts A and B, the AEP is the perfect time to enroll in Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C). Medicare Advantage plans usually offer comprehensive coverage options that are not covered by Original Medicare, including hearing, vision, and dental needs.
In some circumstances, you may also be able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that offers built-in Medicare Part D: Prescription Drug Coverage. It is also possible to enroll in a standalone Medicare Part D plan at this time.
Please note, however, that a penalty fee may apply if you do not currently have other creditable drug coverage.
Does your loved one have Original Medicare and a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan?
If you have Original Medicare with additional standalone Part D medication coverage, the AEP is the perfect time to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that bundles this coverage with additional healthcare needs you may require, like eyeglasses, hearing aids, or dentures.
During AEP you can also switch your existing Medicare Part D plan to another, more viable Part D plan, or drop your Medicare Part D: Prescription Drug Coverage completely. Keep in mind that if you decide to drop coverage, but then wish to enroll again later, a penalty fee may apply.
Does your loved one have Original Medicare and a Medicare Advantage plan with built-in or stand-alone Part D coverage?
If you already have a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage included, you can use the Annual Enrollment Period to switch your current coverage to another plan, or drop your Medicare Advantage coverage completely and return to Original Medicare. This is also true if you currently have a Medicare Advantage plan plus an additional stand-alone Part D prescription drug coverage plan.
After reverting to Original Medicare, you can also decide to join a stand-alone prescription drug coverage plan, or drop your prescription medication coverage entirely. As always, a penalty fee may apply if you cancel but decide to enroll in drug coverage again later.
Why is finding the ideal health insurance plan so important?
When it comes to enrolling in the ideal Medicare plan for you, navigating the many different options and enrollment periods isn’t always easy. While Original Medicare helps millions of Americans pay for basic healthcare costs every day, it doesn’t always offer everything you need.
For additional coverage needs, including eyeglasses, contacts, dentures, dental cleanings, hearing aids, and even prescription drug coverage, enrolling in a comprehensive Medicare Advantage plan may be a much better option.
When researching and comparing Medicare plans near you, there are many great resources that can help. Be sure to look into this assistance before or during this year’s Annual Enrollment Period.