| Fri, Oct 14, 2011 @ 09:00 AM

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period is Open. It’s Time to Act.

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

Medicare holds the Annual Enrollment Period to give beneficiaries an opportunity every year to review and make changes in their coverage choices.  From October 15 through December 7, current Medicare beneficiaries can make changes in their Medicare coverage, if they choose. Coverage changes made during this period take effect on January 1, 2012.

If you are a Medicare beneficiary and you want to change your coverage, the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) gives you the opportunity to:

1.      Change the way you get your Medicare coverage.

There are two ways to get Medicare. You can choose Original Medicare, which is run by the federal government, or you can choose a Medicare Advantage plan from a private insurance company.

Whichever way you currently receive your Medicare health benefits, during AEP, you can choose to change it. You can change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan. Or, you can change from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare.

What’s the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage? Many Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans combine all of the benefits offered by Original Medicare Part A and Part B with added benefits such as vision, dental, hearing and wellness care. Most plans also include prescription drug coverage, often for no additional premium. Original Medicare does not include drug coverage, but you can choose to add it by joining a private Part D prescription drug plan. (See #3 below.)  

2.      Switch your Medicare Advantage plan.

If you already have a Medicare Advantage plan, and you are looking for a different plan that may better meet your needs, AEP is your time to act.

During AEP, you can switch from one Medicare Advantage (MA) plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan. Perhaps your current plan doesn’t include drug coverage (MA-only plan), and you want one that does. Or maybe you have a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage (MA-PD plan) and you no longer need it because your prescription drugs are covered through another source, such as a union benefit. Or you could be looking for a plan with similar coverage to what you currently have, but that better meets your health and financial needs.

Whatever your reason, switching plans is easy. Usually, when you join a new plan you are automatically disenrolled from your previous plan. However, it’s important to check your current plan’s policies before making a change.

3.      Join, switch or drop a Medicare prescription drug plan.

Medicare prescription drug plans (Medicare Part D) are offered by private companies. Beneficiaries who have Original Medicare or an MA-only plan can add a prescription drug plan to help with prescription drug costs.

During AEP, you can:

  • Join a Medicare prescription drug plan. Note that if you have an MA-PD plan, you will be automatically disenrolled from that plan and returned to Original Medicare if you join a prescription drug plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to a different Medicare prescription drug plan. When you enroll in a new prescription drug plan, you are automatically disenrolled from your previous plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely. It’s important to know that if you drop your prescription drug coverage and want to join another drug plan later, you will likely have to wait for an enrollment period to do it. Also, you may have to pay a penalty.

You can research different types of plans using the Medicare.gov plan finder tool. You enter some basic location and health information, and the website delivers a list of plans in your area with information about each. You can compare benefits and costs, and you can even enroll online if you choose.

For more information contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. You can also contact UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Made Clear to learn more at 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.

Resources:

Compare Medicare Drug Coverage – Medicare.gov

Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods – Medicare.gov

Medicare & You 2011 – Medicare.gov

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