Medicare beneficiaries have options. While this is a good thing, it can also lead to confusion. Selecting the right plan is a high-stakes decision. Adding to the pressure, beneficiaries can only make decisions during certain periods. To make the right decisions, they need to know when these periods are and what they’re allowed to do.
The Medicare Options
Medicare beneficiaries can go a couple of different ways with their enrollment.
- They can enroll in Original Medicare, which consists of Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. If they go that route, they can also pick a private Medicare Part D prescription drug plan and, if they want, a Medicare Supplement Plan.
- They can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Many of these plans include prescription drug coverage. However, people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans without drug coverage can enroll in a separate Medicare Part D plan.
The options become even more complicated when you realize how many different Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans beneficiaries have to choose from. CMS says there are more than 3,700 Medicare Advantage plans in 2019, an increase of about 600 from the previous year, and 91 percent of beneficiaries have access to 10 or more plans.
This is great. It means that beneficiaries can pick a plan that meets their unique needs. But if you’ve ever gotten stuck in the cereal aisle of the grocery store, dazed by the sheer number of options, you know that have lots of choices can be overwhelming.
Even worse, signing up late for Medicare can result in late fees. This is why planning is important. By knowing when the election periods occur and which changes they permit, beneficiaries can prepare to make the best enrollment decision possible.
The Election Periods
Medicare beneficiaries have certain periods when they can enroll in Medicare:
- The Initial Enrollment Period covers the seven months around a person’s 65th
- Special Enrollment Periods occur when an individual’s unique circumstances trigger an individual enrollment period. Moving is just one example of an event that can trigger a Special Enrollment Period.
- Enrollment periods occur each year. These enrollment periods give all beneficiaries the chance to review and change their coverage.
Enrolling in Medicare Advantage and Prescription Coverage
Medicare Advantage plans often include benefits not available through Original Medicare. Watch this video to learn about the different election periods for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans.
Changing Your Medicare Advantage Plan
Plans may change from year to year. Even if they don’t, a beneficiary’s needs may. The new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period gives beneficiaries another opportunity to find the perfect plan. Watch this video to learn about the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.