Medicare Open Enrollment Period Returns in 2019
In 2019, you should expect some “shaking up” within Medicare. Usually, when it comes to Medicare 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 Open Enrollment Period will run from January 1st through March 31st .
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 Medicare 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 Medicare Open Enrollment Period
Starting in January of 2019, the Medicare Open Enrollment Period will be replacing th Advantage Disenrollment Period. The Open Enrollment Period 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 Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan. Usually a Medicare Advantage Plan includes drug coverage. Once you sign up with a Part D Prescription Plan it will drop you from your Medicare Advantage Plan and return you to Medicare Part A and Part B. You can enroll in a Medigap (Medicare Supplement Plan) once you are no longer on a Medicare Advantage Plan, if you can medically qualify.
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan
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 Open Enrollment refers to when you first get your Medicare 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 (Supplement) 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.
For example, New York and Connecticut have year-round open enrollment. On average, Medicare Beneficiaries in one of these states should expect to pay a higher premium for Medicare Supplement coverage.
Medicare Annual Enrollment Period
Currently, the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is the one time a year that someone can enroll, disenroll, or change their Medicare Advantage or Part D Prescription Plan. The Annual Enrollment Period runs from October 15th to December 7th yearly and is the only time you can switch your Part D Prescription plan and Medicare Advantage Plan.
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. Presently, the only exception is the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period.
Here is what you can do during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period:
- Change to a Medicare Advantage Plan from Original Medicare, Part A and Part B.
- Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare, Part A and Part B.
- Change from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another (regardless of whether either plan offers drug coverage).
- Enroll in a Part D Prescription Drug Plan.
- Change from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another.
- Opt out of Medicare Prescription Drug coverage completely.
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 Medicare 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 a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan 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 Medicare Open Enrollment Period.
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 provide extra benefits, and these extras can change on a yearly basis.
Frequently, Medicare Advantage plans do 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 providers is not sufficient based on Medicare guidelines.
Medicare Advantage Plans provide a lower cost premium in exchange for a restricted physician network. With 10,000 Medicare Beneficiaries aging 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 that allow you to change outside of the Annual Enrollment Period and Open Enrollment Period. These are referred to as Special Enrollment Periods (SEPS). Qualifying situations include:
- Moving out of your plans 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 Medicare Beneficiaries do not understand or know all the options that are available, when they can change plans, or the restrictions imposed by some Medicare Advantage Plans.
Ordinarily, local agents that come to your home only offer one or two carriers, which is not advantageous to the consumer. 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.