What You Need to Know About the Medicare Open Enrollment Period

Medicare Open Enrollment Period October 15th - December 7th

Open enrollment spans from October 15th to December 7th annually. The Medicare Open Enrollment Period allows current Medicare enrollees to compare and evaluate their current coverage under Medicare.

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What You Need to Know About the Medicare Open Enrollment Period

The enrollment period enables enrollees to:

Insurance companies make annual adjustments to Medicare plans that can change drug costs, deductibles, providers and monthly premiums. Current enrollees are able to switch plans to save money and reduce out-of-pocket costs.

4 Things to Know About Medicare Open Enrollment

1. 21st Century Cures Act and End-Stage Renal Disease

The 21st Century Cures Act, signed in 2016, has a coverage option going into effect in 2021 that allows patients suffering from end-stage renal disease to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans for the 2021 year instead of being on a Medicare Special Needs plan if one was available in their area.

2. Acupuncture and Back Pain

Changes have also allowed Medicare beneficiaries to be able to seek acupuncture for lower back pain. The coverage allows for 12 visits to an acupuncturist in a 90-day period.

3. Medigap Plans Do Not Apply

The Medicare annual election period does not apply to Medigap plans, which are limited to special and initial enrollment periods.

4. Open Enrollment is Limited to Current Beneficiaries

The Open Enrollment period is not available to new Medicare enrollees. If you didn’t apply when you were first able to apply, you must enroll during the general enrollment period, which spans from January 1 to March 31. If you apply during this time, your benefits will go into effect on July 1.

What If You Miss Medicare Open Enrollment?

If you miss the open enrollment period, you’ll have to research whether you can change your coverage through a special enrollment period if you’re eligible. The only other option to make changes to your current Medicare plan is wait for the next open or general enrollment period.

Anyone who is already enrolled and misses the open enrollment period will still have their current coverage. You can choose to keep your plan the same, and there’s no requirement to renew plans each year.

Annual Notice of Change

Annually, all beneficiaries will receive an Annual Notice of Change letter in the mail. The letter is sent in September and will outline all of the changes to your plan for the coming year. It’s important for all beneficiaries to set aside some time to review:

  • Copays
  • Drug coverage
  • Networks
  • Additional changes

You’ll be able to look through the document and compare any changes to your current plan and the upcoming year’s plan. If you find that the changes are minimal or there’s nothing that you want to change, you can let the open enrollment period pass – there’s nothing for you to do.

Open enrollment allows you to switch plans to enjoy lower premiums and copays, or choose a network that your doctor is part of already. You may also be able to find more comprehensive coverage available.

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