Medicare Open Enrollment Starts October 15

Medicare Open Enrollment Starts October 15

Medicare’s Fall Open Enrollment begins next week! Officially known as the Annual Election Period which runs from October 15 through December 7, this is main time when you can change your coverage. All changes are effective January 1 next year. If you are in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can switch plans or disenroll and return to Original Medicare. Similarly if you’re in Original Medicare and would like to join an MA plan, you can. You can also join, disenroll from or switch Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.

Each year, Medicare health plans and Part D prescription drug plans can change their premiums, deductibles, cost-sharing and some benefits, or discontinue their coverage altogether. Therefore it’s good to be aware of how your plan may change, and prepare accordingly. Some helpful preparation tips include:

  • Review your plan’s changes for 2014. If you’re in a Medicare Advantage and/or Part D plan, your plan should have mailed you an Annual Notice of Change by September 30, explaining its changes for 2014. For example, the Annual Notice of Change would include information such as your premium and copayment, if your plan’s provider network will change, and/or a list of drugs (called a formulary) that will be covered. Even if you like your current plan, review your plan’s changes for 2014 and compare other options to determine which 2014 plans have the coverage you need.
  • Look for other options. If your health plan or drug plan is terminating its coverage, you should receive a notice by October 2 informing you of your rights and options for other coverage. See When Medicare Advantage Plans Terminate Coverage.
  • Be on the alert. Medicare health plans and prescription drug plans have already started marketing their 2014 plans as of October 1, 2013. Agents and brokers selling these plan must follow strict guidelines when marketing to you — report any suspected marketing fraud or abuse to the Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-855-613-7080.

To review your coverage options for 2014, you can:

  • Use the Plan Finder on Medicare.gov to find Medicare Advantage and Part D plans in your area and to see what Part D plans cover the drugs you use.
  • Read the official U.S. government Medicare handbook: Medicare & You 2014. Hard copies were mailed to beneficiaries between September 16-30, and it is also available online. (See the “Go Paperless” option on Medicare.gov for more info.)
  • Call your local Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program (HICAP). Each HICAP has county-specific information on the Medicare advantage and Part D plans available in your area, as well as info on Medicare supplement plans known as Medigap.

2014 is just around the corner. By following some of these tips you’ll ensure you’ve chosen the best coverage options to meet your needs in 2014. See our Annual Election Period page for more information and some common Q&As.

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.

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