When is the Medicare Open Enrollment Period this year?
That’s a common question, even by Medicare “veterans”. The end-of-year period that this question refers to is an annual period, technically named the “annual election period”. For 2014 plans, this period begins October 15, 2013 and runs through December 7, 2013 (same dates as last year).
The terminology can be confusing, but “open enrollment” actually refers to the 6-month period that you have when you turn 65 or first go on Medicare, during which you can select a Medicare supplement with no underwriting or health questions. The end-of-year period is called the “annual election period” and does not apply to this type of plan. During this period, you can make changes to your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plans. This period, contrary to popular misconception, has nothing to do with Medigap plans (also called Medicare supplements).
For the annual election period, enrollments can begin October 15. But the plan information will come out in advance of that, on or around October 1 for most companies. Additionally, you can access comparative information, particularly for Part D (Rx coverage), on Medicare’s website, which is http://medicare.gov.
So, why is it important to you when the Medicare Open enrollment period occurs?
If you are on Medicare now or going on in the next few months, it is very crucial that you stay apprised of changes to Part D coverage. These plans change each year – aspects of the plans that can change include premium, plan design, co-pays, deductible, networks, etc. There are many variables to consider. What the Medicare.gov comparison tool does is take all this into account for you, and it gives you an accurate depiction of what your total overall annual costs will be, based on current medication usage. This can help you evaluate the plans and make a wise decision. Once you have selected a plan, you can even enroll online on the Medicare.gov site.
Although the annual election period has nothing to do with Medicare Supplement plans, many use it as an opportunity to re-evaluate their supplemental coverage. And, this is a wise thing to do at least every year or two. Since Medigap plans are standardized, coverage, claim payments, doctor acceptance, etc. are the same with all companies. So, it is relatively easy to compare “apples to apples”. If you can find the same plan (i.e. Plan F) for less with a different company, there is no reason not to realize that instant savings.
So, we are approaching the one month mark, leading into the release of the plan information for 2014. Most expect some reduction of benefits, on average, for the 2014 Medicare Advantage plans and an increase in enrollments into the traditional Medicare + supplement route for those who can qualify medically. If you elect a Medicare Advantage plan when first eligible for Medicare, you do have to answer medical questions to switch into an actual Medicare supplement plan (with a few rare exceptions).
If you have questions about this information or would like to compare supplement plans for your age and zip code, you can get an online Medigap comparison from Medicare-Supplement.US. Or, you can call us at 877.506.3378. Medicare-Supplement.us is an independent brokerage that works with the different Medicare supplement plans/companies in 43 states.