Many people who are on Medicare may think that once they sign up and choose their options they’re set for life. But, just like you, your Medicare coverage needs a checkup every so often. And if you find you want to make changes to your coverage, Medicare’s annual open enrollment period is when to do it.

What is the Medicare Open Enrollment Period?

It’s a specific window of time, October 15 to December 7 of every year, when people with Medicare can change their health plans and/or their prescription drug coverage. Changes made within the Open Enrollment Period will go into effect on January 1 of the following year.

I know there are many parts to Medicare. What parts can be changed during the Open Enrollment Period?

During this period you can switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or vice versa. You can also switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, as well as from one prescription drug plan (part D) to a different one.

Why would I want to make changes to my plans?

If your plans are still working well for you, you may not want to or need to make changes. In this case, you don’t have to take any action.

But if your medication and/or health needs have changed, a different plan may make more sense. What’s more, the benefits of the plans themselves can change from year to year, so your coverage may be different than you think.

How do I make changes?

You can get plan information, including information about making changes, at the official Medicare website: Medicare.gov or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Whether you call or visit the website, you’ll be able to compare coverage options and estimate your Medicare costs.

I’m going to turn 65 this year. Do I have to wait until the Open Enrollment Period to sign up for Medicare?

No. When you’re first eligible for Medicare, which for most people is the year in which you turn 65, you have a seven-month Initial Enrollment Period during which you can sign up for Part A and/or Part B. That seven-month period covers the three months prior to the month you turn 65, the month in which you turn 65, and the three months after you turn 65.

However, keep in mind, if you do not sign up for Medicare prior to the month in which you turn 65, you may experience a gap in your medical coverage. And if you miss this Initial Enrollment Period completely, in addition to gaps in your coverage you may also pay penalties.

But, I heard that Medicare is something you get automatically. Do I need to sign up?

It can be confusing. Some people will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance), and Part B (Medical Insurance) when they turn 65. Automatic enrollment depends on whether you’re receiving Social Security benefits at that time.

Get the Information You Need

As you can tell from this brief article, Medicare can be complicated. There are many nuances to understand, and the regulations change frequently. And if you miss an important deadline you could end up paying a penalty.

Instead of getting coverage that’s not right for you or overpriced, we recommend you educate yourself with information from a trusted source.

Modera can Help

At Modera we focus on our clients’ entire financial lives, including your health coverage. If you’d like to ask us about Medicare, or other health-related financial issues, please get in touch. In addition to answering your questions we can also steer you to helpful resources for accurate information.

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