Page 8 - Senior Times South Central Michigan October 2020 - 27-10
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Page 8 Senior Times - October 2020
By: Louise Norris
 Medicare open enrollment – also known as Medicare’s annual election period – runs from October 15 through December 7 each year. During this annual window, Medicare plan enrollees can reevaluate their coverage – wheth- er it’s Original Medicare with supplemental drug coverage, or Medicare Advantage – and make changes or purchase new policies if they want to do so.
opposed to simply letting an existing drug plan
Medicare open enrollment: What you can’t do. The annual Medicare open enrollment period does not 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.
You can be better prepared by reviewing the information being sent by mail including notices sent from your current plan, Medicare, or Social Security about changes to your coverage and possible Extra Help you may get for paying for prescription drugs. You will also receive your new “Medicare & You” handbook. Next review changes in your health care and prescription drug needs and compare to the new plans found online. Visit to get started and find answers to the questions you may have.
During the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period (January 1 – March 31), Americans who are already enrolled in Medicare Advantage can:
Medicare’s general enrollment period is for people who didn’t sign up for Medicare Part
B when they were first eligible, and who don’t have access to a Medicare Part B special enroll- ment period. It’s also for people who have to pay a premium for Medicare Part A and didn’t enroll in Part A when they were first eligible.
How to change Medicare plans – Once you’re enrolled in Medicare, you’ll have various opportunities to change certain aspects of your coverage.
• Only one plan change is allowed during this window (unlike the fall enrollment period, when a person can change their mind multiple times).
Louise Norris is an individual health insur- ance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by health insurance experts.
During the annual open enrollment period (October 15 – December 7), you can make a variety of changes, none of which involve medical underwriting. (Prior to 2021, people with end-stage renal disease were not able to switch to Medicare Advantage during the open enrollment period, but that’s no longer the case as of 2021.):
During the five-star enrollment period (December 8 – November 30), people who live in an area with a five-star Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan can switch to that plan if they choose to do so.
Publisher’s Note: A MMAP (Michigan Medicare /Mediecaid Assistance Program) counselor can assist with the choices that are available to you during open enrollment and all year long. Many traditional MMAP counseling sites will not be doing in-person visits this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but may work with you over the phone instead. Assistance requires sharing of your Medicare number, date of birth, insurance information, and medication infor- mation. This is the same information you would need to give 1-800-Medicare to have them com- pare plans for you. To schedule an appointment call 1-800-803-7174. Visit or your Area Agency on Aging to volunteer.
• Switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare or vice versa.
During the first year a person is enrolled in Medicare Advantage, they can switch to (or back to) Original Medicare and a Part D plan. And with some exceptions, they also have guar- anteed-issue access to a Medigap plan.
• Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
Any time during the year, a person enrolled in Original Medicare can apply for a different Medigap plan. But if it’s not during the person’s one-time Medigap enrollment win- dow, the insurer will likely use medical under- writing to determine whether to issue the policy and at what price.
• Switch from one Part D prescription plan to another. It’s highly recommended that all ben- eficiaries use Medicare’s plan finder tool each year to compare the available Part D plans, as
• Join a Medicare Part D plan. (Late-enrollment
penalty might apply.)
• Drop your Part D coverage altogether.
(Re-enrolling in a later year will include a late-enrollment penalty if you’re not maintain- ing other creditable drug coverage.)
If you didn’t enroll in Medicare when you were first eligible, you cannot use the fall open enrollment period to enroll. Instead, you’ll use the Medicare general enrollment period, which runs from January 1 to March 31.
• Switch to Original Medicare (and enroll in a Part D plan; access to Medigap might require medical underwriting, depending on the cir- cumstances.)
• Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
If you enroll during the general enrollment period, your coverage will take effect July 1.
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