There are only six days remaining in the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, meaning that Medicare beneficiaries have just a few days left to make changes to their health and drug coverage for 2014.
The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP), also known as the Annual Enrollment Period, occurs from October 15 to December 7 of each year and it gives beneficiaries the chance to shop around for a new Medicare plan. This includes making changes to their Medicare Advantage (MA) and/or Medicare Part D coverage for the following year. With only a few days left in this enrollment window, it is important for beneficiaries to make sure that they are enrolled in the right Medicare plan(s) for their needs for the following year, for the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period may be one of the only times they can make changes to their health and drug coverage.
Changes that can be made during the Annual Enrollment Period
During this time, beneficiaries can switch from the federally run Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) coverage to a Medicare Advantage private health insurance plan. Beyond that, beneficiaries are also free to switch MA plans, moving from one that does not include prescription drug coverage to an MAPD (Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug) plan, for example. If they choose to enroll in an MA plan, they will receive all of their Part A hospital and Part B medical benefits, with the exception of hospice care, through this plan.
For Original Medicare beneficiaries who choose to keep receiving their Part A and Part B benefits through the government-run program, they may enroll in a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) in order to receive the Part D drug benefit during the AEP. They may also switch PDPs throughout AEP, and they also have the option to drop their Part D plan entirely as well.
eHealth Medicare offers the use of an obligation-free and complimentary Medicare plan finder tool, which allows beneficiaries to shop for a plan best suited for their needs. It is an easy and effective way to review all the available plans in your area.
What to consider when enrolling
Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plan costs and coverage details are subject to change annually. You will receive an Annual Notice of Change packet from your current plan so you can review these details before making an informed decision on whether or not you should keep your current coverage or shop for a new option.
You should also consider making a list of any/all of your prescription drug medications. Having this information on hand will make it easier when comparing plans and/or speaking to a licensed agent about your plan options. If you do not take any medications, you may want to consider enrolling in Part D coverage anyway to avoid any unnecessary Part D late enrollment fees in the future.
Once the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period passes
If you miss the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, there are a limited amount of options available for you to make changes to your Medicare coverage during the year. Most beneficiaries have to wait for the AEP to come around again.
There is an enrollment period that runs from January 1 to February 14 of each year known as the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MAPD). If you joined a Medicare Advantage plan during the AEP and decide that you want to switch back to Original Medicare coverage, you are allowed to switch back at this time. You cannot cannot leave an MA plan in favor of joining another private plan during this period. If you were enrolled in a MA plan that offered drug coverage, you can pick up a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) during this time if you switched back to Original Medicare.
There are also certain Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) that you can qualify for that can allow you to make changes to your Medicare coverage outside of the AEP. These SEPs are limited to certain qualifying circumstances, such as:
- Moving to a new coverage area
- If you suffer from certain chronic medical conditions
- Being enrolled in or qualified for the Extra Help program from the government
- Being enrolled in the Medicaid program
Remember, the Annual Enrollment Period ends in just six days. Don’t miss this enrollment window!
Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.