Healthcare Educators


Medicare Open Enrollment: What to Expect and How to Get the Most out of It

by | Aug 17, 2018

The open enrollment period for Medicare takes place between October 15 and December 7. Also called the Annual Election Period (AEP), this is when Medicare enrollees get the chance to review their coverage options and decide whether they want to switch to a different plan.

What to Expect During Open Enrollment

During Open Enrollment, Medicare enrollees decide whether to stay with their current coverage or switch to a new plan.

  • If you’re currently enrolled in Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B), you can stay with Original Medicare, or you can switch to a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • If you’re currently enrolled in Medicare Advantage, you can stay with your current plan, switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan or switch to Original Medicare.
  • You can also change your Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. (Note that many Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage.)

Beginning in October, you will be able to learn about the plan options for the following year. You will also receive notices about your current plan, including the “Evidence of Coverage” and “Annual Notice of Change.”

How to Get the Most out of Open Enrollment

The choices you make between October 15 and December 7 will affect you for the entire following year. Don’t wait until the last minute to start thinking about your options. Give this decision the time it deserves.

  1. Review your current plan for any changes. Don’t assume your plan will stay the same. Check whether it’s changing, and if it is changing, understand how the differences will affect you.
  2. Review your other options. Even if you’re relatively satisfied with your current plan, there may be a better option. Pay close attention to new options that you didn’t have the year before. Also keep in mind that other plans may have changed, so a plan that didn’t like last year might be better suited for you now.
  3. Look at your own health care needs and costs. Go over your records for the last year. Did you pay more out of pocket than you expected or could afford? If so, another plan may help you get the care you need without breaking the bank. Also consider whether you expect your health needs to change over the next year.
  4. Be prepared to do some math. To really be sure which plan is best for you, you may need to grab a calculator. Add up all your estimated expenses under different plans, including the premium, deductible and copays. Compare the results to see which plan will save you the most money.
  5. Enlist the help of an insurance agent. If you feel overwhelmed by all the options, don’t worry – help is available. An insurance agent will be familiar with the options in your area and can help guide you through the process. This is one of those times when expert advice can really make a difference.

What About the “New” Enrollment Period?

As you may have heard, there’s a change in the works for 2019. The usual Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (January 1 – February 14 every year) will be replaced with a different arrangement, a new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period that runs from January 1 to March 31. If you are with Medicare Advantage, you’ll have a one-time opportunity to make some changes in your selections. Watch our blog for more information about this.

Need professional guidance? Contact us. We an entire team of Medicare agents who can help you make informed healthcare choices.