In 2019, you should expect some “shaking up” within Medicare. Usually, when it comes to Part D and Medicare Advantage Plans, you can only switch your plan once a year.
That is changing in 2019 with the return of the Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP). The 2019 Medicare OEP will run from January 1st through March 31st.
Medicare Open Enrollment Period
The return of this enrollment period will allow Medicare beneficiaries that are currently “locked-in” to their Medicare Advantage Plan an additional opportunity to change their plan after the effective date. This turnabout is a substantial comfort for beneficiaries on Medicare Advantage Plans.
Previously, if you were to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), and something was not as you expected, you could drop the coverage during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period.
You would be permitted to go back to Original Medicare, but you could not change to another Medicare Advantage Plan or provider.
2019 OEP Medicare
Starting in January of 2019, the Medicare Open Enrollment Period will be replacing the Advantage Disenrollment Period. The Medicare Advantage OEP will run from January 1st through March 31st annually. This enrollment period is for only those beneficiaries who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan.
Those on a Medicare Advantage plan will have a one-time chance to:
- Drop your Medicare Advantage Plan and return to Original Medicare, Part A, and Part B
- Sign up for a stand-alone Part D Prescription Drug Plan. Usually, a Medicare Advantage Plan includes drug coverage. Once you sign up with Part D, it will drop you from your Medicare Advantage Plan. You’ll then return to Part A and Part B.
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan
More on the Medicare Open Enrollment Period
Medicare can be very confusing, there will now be more than one open enrollment you will hear about regarding Medicare. The other Open Enrollment has solely to do with Medicare Supplement Plans.
This Medicare OEP 2019 refers to when you first get your Part B, or if you had Medicare prior to 65 you will receive another Open Enrollment upon turning 65.
In most states, this period begins the month you turn 65 and start your Part B Medicare and lasts for 6 months. During this period, you can choose any Medicare Supplement carrier and any plan without having to medically qualify.
Outside of this period, you will have to go through medical underwriting to qualify for a Medigap Plan.
There are a few states that have additional Open Enrollment Periods. Check with a licensed insurance agent in your state to see if you have additional open enrollment periods.
Medicare Annual Enrollment Period vs Medicare Open Enrollment Period
Currently, the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) runs from October 15th to December 7th yearly and it allows you to switch your Part D Prescription plan and Medicare Advantage Plan. AEP is very different from OEP, they happen at different times of the year and have different guidelines.
When you enrolled during AEP, your new plan would start on January 1st and you will be locked in until the AEP the following year for a Prescription Drug Plan and Medicare Advantage Plan.
During AEP, you need to use the Annual Election Period Checklist to ensure you don’t miss anything.
Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period
The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period is a period that currently runs from January 1st through February 14th annually. During this period a beneficiary can drop their Medicare Advantage Plan and return to Original Medicare and can pick up a Part D Prescription Drug Plan.
Of course, you can only pick up Part D during this period if you are dropping a Medicare Advantage Plan. The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period is being discontinued in 2019 and replaced with the OEP Medicare 2019.
I Just Signed Up for my Medicare Advantage Plan: Why Would I Want to Change Already
Medicare Advantage Plans must cover at least the same benefits as Original Medicare. However, some Medicare Advantage Plans to provide extra benefits, and these extras can change on a yearly basis.
Frequently, Medicare Advantage plans to offer dental, vision and hearing benefits. Sadly, it is only for preventive coverage and in most cases, it is difficult to find a dentist that will accept the coverage.
Another crucial reason people want to drop their Medicare Advantage Plan is due to the constant network changes with doctors.
A Medicare Advantage Plan is a yearlong contract in which the Medicare beneficiary cannot change their benefits. Nonetheless, provider contracts may not follow the same agreements or terms.
What this means for a Medicare beneficiary is your doctor could suddenly be out of network. There are a few circumstances in which you can change a Medicare Advantage Plan during the “locked in-period”.
However, a change in-network provider is not sufficiently based on Medicare guidelines.
Medicare Advantage Plans provide a lower cost premium in exchange for a restricted physician network. Ten thousand Medicare beneficiaries age into Medicare daily.
Medicare Advantage Plans reduce the pool of top-notch doctors available to our maturing generation.
What if I Want to Change Outside One of These Enrollment Periods
There are situations that occur outside of AEP and the OEP that allow for change.
A Special Enrollment Period (SEP) will let you enroll outside of AEP and OEP.
Qualifying situations include:
- Moving out of your plan’s service area
- Receiving both Medicare and Medicaid
- Having any level of extra help or low-income subsidy
- Living in, moving to or from an Institution, such as a long-term care hospital or skilled nursing facility
Know Your Options
Many beneficiaries don’t understand all the options available when they change plans or the restrictions of Medicare Advantage Plans.
Ordinarily, local agents that come to your home only offer one or two carriers. That method of enrollment doesn’t benefit you. This is the reason most Medicare plan enrollments happen over the phone.
The best practice is to contact an agency licensed nationwide with access to all your options. This will ensure that you are well informed, understand your options, and any limitations. It will also guarantee you are not compromising your needs to obtain an affordable premium.
You can also compare rates online in your area using our rate form.