If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan but would like to make a change, you can likely take advantage of the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.
This Open Enrollment Period occurs each year between January 1 and March 31.
What Is Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage?
Medicare is a federal health insurance program designed for seniors aged 65 and older as well as people with qualifying disabilities.
Medicare consists of several program offerings: Medicare A covers care in hospitals or similar institutions, like skilled nursing facilities. Medicare B focuses on coverage for outpatient medical care. (Together, Medicare Parts A and B are often referred to as traditional Medicare.)
Medicare Part D, only available through private insurers, covers prescription medications.
Medicare Advantage — also known as Medicare Part C — is an alternative to traditional Medicare. These plans are available through private health insurers that contract with Medicare.
What Does Medicare Advantage Cover?
Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage, includes Medicare Parts A and B. Most Part C plans also include prescription drug coverage.
Depending on the plan you choose, it may also cover such extras as certain dental services, gym memberships, or meal benefits. Costs will also depend on the plan you select.
What You Can — and Can’t — Do During Medicare Advantage’s Open Enrollment Period
If you are already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can choose to take one of the following actions from January 1 to March 31:
- Change your current Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan
- Switch to traditional Medicare (with or without coverage for prescription drugs)
You are not required to make any changes during this open enrollment period. However, note that if you do, you can change plans only once during this timeframe.
Meanwhile, you are not permitted do the following between the January 1 and March 31 open enrollment period:
- Change from traditional Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
- Switch to a different prescription drug plan
- Drop a Medicare Medical Savings Account plan
When Will My Plan Changes Go Into Effect?
Changes you make during this January 1 to March 31 time period will go into effect on the first of the month after the plan you have chosen receives your enrollment information.
Where Can I Get Assistance?
Regardless of the time of year, you can seek out guidance from professionals via:
- Medicare’s toll-free number, 1-800-MEDICARE
- Medicare’s Plan Finder — This allows you to compare plans in terms of cost, coverage, providers, and more
- Your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) — SHIP counselors are trained to provide impartial information about Medicare.
For more information on Medicare Advantage, be sure to check out the following resources:
- Comparing Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage
- What to Look for When Choosing a Medicare Advantage Plan
Consider consulting with a qualified elder law attorney in your area for additional guidance.