When you turn 65 and enroll in Medicare, you might feel tempted to choose a plan and then forget about coverage decisions. But that would be a mistake, because the various options offered to you through Medicare can and will change over time! Additionally, your healthcare needs and possibly your budget will change as well. That’s why Medicare offers two different periods of time each year, during which you can make changes to Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans.
The first of those is the Annual Election Period, which runs from October 15 to December 7 each year. You can make changes to any Medicare plan at this time. The second, Medicare Open Enrollment, runs from January 1 to March 31 and only affects those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.
So, why should you bother with these two enrollment periods? The answers are fairly straightforward.
First, Medicare Advantage plans operate on a network, and that network can change over time. Your preferred practitioners or facilities might drop out of the network, leaving you limited to whatever you are offered.
Second, your healthcare needs might change over time. You might develop certain health conditions that necessitate a Medicare Special Needs Plan (SNP), which can help you manage the costs associated with certain medical complications. Or you might simply wish you had features like dental care or vision services rolled into your plan (and some Medicare Advantage plans do offer those, whereas Original Medicare does not).
And finally, Plan D (prescription drug) plans can change from one year to the next. The plan’s “formulary” (list of covered drugs) might shift, and an essential presciption might not be covered at the same level anymore. This can become complicated if you rely on certain medications. And since most Medicare Advantage plans typically include Part D coverage, they might be affected by this type of change too.
Always read your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) letter which arrives each fall before the Annual Election Period. This notice details any upcoming changes to your plan, so that you have time to identify your needs and switch to a new plan if necesssary.
And remember, we’re here to help. Call us with your questions about Medicare coverage, and we’ll be happy to help you sort through your options and choose a plan that works for you.