Understanding the Medicare Open Enrollment Period

Image by David Castillo Dominici, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image by David Castillo Dominici, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Medicare’s annual open enrollment period began this week and many seniors are confused about what they should be doing. To make matters worse, you may be getting inundated with mail from different providers and plans and may not know how to make sense of it all.  

Here is a brief synopsis of what the open enrollment period means and what you should be doing to ensure you have the best coverage.

The Basics:

Between October 15 and December 7th, 2015, current Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their plans such as switching from traditional coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan; selecting a different private insurance provider for their Advantage plan, or making changes to their Part D prescription drug coverage.

Any changes that are made go into effect on January 1st, 2016.

In order to know whether you should be paying attention to other plans, you need to start by knowing what your current plan offers. By law every Medicare plan provider is required to send an Annual Notice of Change letter by late September. This letter will detail any changes that will be made in 2016 and you can use it as a basis of comparison for other plans to see which is best for you. Alternatively, you can turn to one of the following resources to analyze and compare plans:

  • Medicare.gov: provides an excellent online resource to confidentially review and compare your coverage options, check your current enrollment and get in-depth information about the medicare system in general. It also features digital calculators for you to input your current insurance plan and prescription drug needs and compare how much you will pay on different plans.
  • 1-800-MEDICARE: provides customer representatives that are available to answer questions who will compare insurance plans on your behalf and mail you the results.
  • New York State Office for the Aging has information available on their website as well as a Health Insurance Information, Counseling and Assistance (HIICAP) program, which provides free information, counseling, assistance and advocacy on Medicare, private health insurance and related health coverage plans. The HIICAP has an extensive web page with a variety of useful resources. To contact a HIICAP counselor in your area, call 1-800-701-0501 or visit the HIICAP local Offices page.

Here are a few additional articles which are relevant to the current open enrollment process and Medicare in general:

Medicare terminology and plans explained

Medicare Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding Medicare Part D