Just the FAQs: Medicare Open Enrollment

medicare.gov homepageWhat is the Medicare Open Enrollment Period?

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period is a ten-week period during which a Medicare beneficiary can change their coverage.
This is the only time, other than when you originally qualify for Medicare, that you can choose a plan.

When is the Medicare Open Enrollment Period?

This year’s Medicare Open Enrollment Period runs from Monday, October 15 through Friday, December 7, 2018.

When Do Changes I Make during the Open Enrollment Period Take Effect?

All changes take effect January 1, 2019.

What changes am I allowed to make during the Open Enrollment Period?

You can revisit all the choices you made when you first enrolled for Medicare, or choices you made during the last Open Enrollment Period.

For example, you can

  • Choose between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage
  • Add, remove, or change your prescription drug coverage

If I Am Happy with My Current Coverage, Why Would I Consider Changing?

There are many reasons to consider changing your coverage, even if it suited you well in the past.
In particular, Medicare Advantage plans and prescription drug plans can change radically as of January 1.

Not only can premiums change, but your out-of-pocket costs, including your deductible, your copayments, and your spending limit can change.

In a Medicare Advantage plan, your provider network may change, leaving you without the doctors you have relied on until now.

If you take medications, as most seniors do, your drug plan deserves extra scrutiny as well. Not only can the pharmacies in your network change, but the cost of your medications may change as well. It is worth reviewing the available drug plans to see which will save you money on the medications you expect to use in the coming year.

How Would I Know If the Benefits I Have under My Current Coverage Will Change Next Year?

During October, Medicare Advantage and drug plans will send all current members official notice of all changes to their plan. This is called an “Annual Notice of Changes.” They may also send a new description of the costs and benefits of your current plan, called, “Evidence of Coverage.”

You should look at these documents very closely. Not only do you want to check if costs and benefits will change, you will want to see if there are other plans that better suit your specific medical needs.

How Do I Change My Plan?

You can change plans online, at medicare.gov; by phone, at 1-800-MEDICARE; or by mailing in a printed application.

What Should I Do If I Want to Keep My Plan?

If you are keeping the same plan you had last year, you don’t have to do anything. You will be automatically reenrolled in the same plan.

Is the Open Enrollment Period the time to enroll in Medicare for the first time?

No. The Open Enrollment Period is only for current Medicare beneficiaries.

The time for you to enroll in Medicare for the first time is three months before your 65th birthday.

If you miss this deadline, you can enroll during the General Enrollment Period, from Tuesday, January 1, 2019 through Sunday, March 31, 2019. Your coverage will take effect July 1, 2019.

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