Countless Medicare beneficiaries have enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan at some point, only to realize in January that their doctor didn’t accept their new coverage, or to realize they had a network they needed to stay in. For many Medicare beneficiaries, this meant staying in a plan that wasn’t most suitable for them for an entire year.
This coming year, 2019, Medicare beneficiaries will see some beneficial changes in their healthcare options and flexibility. In 2010, lawmakers and CMS agreed to do away with the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, and now they’re reinstating it for all Medicare beneficiaries.
How This Change Will Benefit Medicare Beneficiaries
The Open Enrollment Period will take the place of the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) which was January 1 through February 14 every year. This MADP would only allow beneficiaries to disenroll from their Medicare Advantage coverage and switch back to Original Medicare, they couldn’t switch from MA plan to MA plan.
The return of the Medicare Open Enrollment Period will benefit many Medicare beneficiaries; especially if you forgot to change your Medicare Advantage plan or decided a different healthcare plan would be more suitable for your needs.
There are some things you’ll be able to do during the OEP, like:
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
- You can only make one change, so make it count!
- Disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and switch back to Traditional Medicare with or without a Part D plan.
The Complexity of the “Open Enrollment Period”
The only reason this gets complicated is that CMS failed to create better terminology for their different enrollment periods.
- Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period is for beneficiaries that are new to Medicare Part B and just turned 65.
- Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is commonly (an incorrectly) referred to as an Open Enrollment Period
- The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is typically confused with the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period. The IEP gives Medicare beneficiaries 7 months to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. The three months before, the month of and the three months after they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare Part B.
The Open Enrollment Period Explained
It can be confusing when talking about the Open Enrollment Period since there are many different enrollment periods referred to as an “Open Enrollment Period,” correctly and incorrectly. This Open Enrollment Period is for Medicare Advantage plan recipients and will begin on January 1 and end on March 31.
Now, things are changing for beneficiaries for the better. The new Medicare changes of 2019 will make changing from an unsuitable Medicare Advantage plan to a more suitable plan, possible.
While there is an opportunity here that allows beneficiaries to change plans, it’s important for you to understand that you won’t be able to switch Part D plans during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period.
Medicare-eligible beneficiaries that are enrolled in a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan need to make changes to their Part D Prescription Drug plan during AEP (October 15 through December 7 of every year).
Each year by September 30th, Medicare Advantage recipients will receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from their existing insurance carrier for their Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription drug plan providers.
When beneficiaries receive this information, it’s their responsibility to note changes and adjust their coverage if needed.
CMS posts plan changes for the following year sometime in October, several months before the new year. Medicare.gov is a valuable resource that Medicare beneficiaries can use to compare plans, look up information and learn more about their Medicare.