Minneapolis, MN – Medicare Advantage enrollees have until March 31 to make changes to their coverage, and medicareresources.org released today several money-saving tips for consumers already hit with rising inflation.
During Medicare’s annual enrollment period in fall 2021, insurers poured millions into hiring celebrities like Joe Namath and Jimmie Walker to tout the benefits of Medicare Advantage plans. It’s a stark contrast to the current Medicare Advantage enrollment period, a lesser-known window that starts Jan. 1 and ends March 31 each year. During this time, beneficiaries with existing Medicare Advantage plans can rectify any oversights or errors they made in choosing their current Medicare Advantage plan.
“Few people know about the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period,” said Louise Norris, a licensed broker and analyst for medicareresources.org. “But it’s an important window for beneficiaries who believe they made a mistake during the fall enrollment period.” Examples of mistakes include accidentally signing up for coverage that doesn’t include their doctor or cover their prescription drugs.
About 29 million people, or 46 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. And based on the latest enrollment figures and recent projections, that percentage will only grow.
Medicare Advantage plans are popular because they can include significant savings on prescription drugs, as well as free benefits such as dental, hearing and vision coverage. But the plans also come with limitations that might not be apparent until after coverage kicks in. For example, unlike Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Part D plans limit enrollees to a specific network of providers and include drug formularies that change annually.
Here are some strategies to keep in mind:
Make sure the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period is actually for you.
This window only applies to Medicare Advantage enrollees – not beneficiaries enrolled in stand-alone Part D prescription drug plans and Medigap.
Know your options.
During the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period, enrollees can switch to Original Medicare or to a different Medicare Advantage plan. The ability to switch plans during the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period is limited to one plan change per year.
When Medicare Advantage enrollees switch to Original Medicare during the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period, they’re also eligible to purchase a Part D prescription drug plan. But a person who has Part D coverage with Original Medicare cannot switch to a different Part D plan during the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period, since this window only applies to Medicare Advantage enrollees.
Check the provider networks and drug costs.
If you are considering another Medicare Advantage plan, check to see if your doctors and preferred pharmacy are included in the provider’s network.
Look before you leap.
A Medicare Advantage plan holder switching from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare during the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period will not necessarily have guaranteed-issue access to a Medigap plan to supplement their Original Medicare coverage. Enrollment in a Medigap plan will depend on how long the person had Medicare Advantage, what state they’re in, and whether they qualify for any of the federal guaranteed-issue rights for Medigap plans.
Medicareresources.org is one of the longest running sources of in-depth information about health insurance for consumers. The site provides an overview of the basics of Medicare coverage options, enrollment and eligibility; coverage FAQs; state-specific Medicare information; and a glossary of Medicare terms.
Amy Fletcher Faircloth, [email protected]