If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan but would like to make a change, you can likely take advantage of the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.
This Open Enrollment Period occurs each year between January 1 and March 31.
What Is Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage?
Medicare is a federal health insurance program designed for seniors aged 65 and older. Many people with qualifying disabilities also rely on this program.
Medicare consists of several program offerings: Medicare A covers care in hospitals or similar institutions, like skilled nursing facilities. Medicare B focuses on coverage for outpatient medical care. (Together, Medicare Part A and Part B are often referred to as traditional, or original, Medicare.)
For prescription drug coverage, Part D is available, although only through private insurers.
Medicare Advantage — also known as Medicare Part C — is an alternative to traditional Medicare. These plans are available through private health insurers that contract with Medicare.
What Does Medicare Advantage Cover?
Medicare Advantage includes Medicare Parts A and B. Most Medicare Advantage plans also include prescription drug coverage.
Depending on the plan you choose, your monthly premium may also cover such extras as certain dental services, gym memberships, or meal benefits. Costs will also depend on the plan you select.
What You Can — and Can’t — Do During Medicare Advantage’s Open Enrollment Period
Already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan? You can choose to take one of the following actions between January 1 and March 31:
- Change your current Medicare Advantage plan to a different type of Medicare Advantage plan
- Switch to traditional Medicare (with or without coverage for prescription drugs)
You are not required to make any changes during this open enrollment period. However, note that if you do, you can change plans only once during this timeframe.
Meanwhile, you are not permitted do the following between the January 1 and March 31 open enrollment period:
- Change from traditional Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
- Switch to a different prescription drug plan
- Drop a Medicare Medical Savings Account plan
When Will My Plan Changes Become Effective?
Changes you make during this January 1 to March 31 time period will take effect on the first of the month after the plan you have chosen receives your enrollment information.
Where Can I Get Assistance With Medicare Enrollment?
Regardless of the time of year, you can seek out guidance from professionals via:
Medicare’s toll-free number, 1-800-MEDICARE
Medicare’s Plan Finder — You can use this online resource to compare plan costs, coverage, providers, and more
Your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) — SHIP counselors are trained to provide impartial information about Medicare.
Learn More and Work With an Elder Law Attorney
For more information on Medicare Advantage, be sure to check out the following resources:
- What to Look for When You Want to Join a Medicare Advantage Plan
Also consider consulting with a qualified elder law attorney in your area today. They can assist you in evaluating different health care program options and creating a long-term plan for your care. In addition, their expertise can be key to understanding your rights, including how to address denials of Medicare coverage.