Medicare Open Enrollment

Written by Cecelia Hobbs Gardner

It’s just around the corner – Medicare’s Annual Election Period or, as it is often referred to, Medicare Open Enrollment. This occurs between October 15 – December 7 and is the time of year when you can change your Medicare coverage.

By September 30, if you have a Medicare Advantage or stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan, you should receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and/or Evidence of Coverage (EOC) which list any changes for the upcoming year. These are very important documents, so I strongly encourage you to open your mail and email and pay close attention. Plans can change drug formulary lists, premiums, rules, drug and plan deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, copays or services provided. You will also want to confirm that the health care providers and pharmacies you use remain in your current plan’s network for the new plan year and that you are still living in the same service area that matches your plan’s coverage. Even if you feel comfortable with your existing plan, this is a great opportunity to review other available options to see if there is something else that may be a better fit. People can often lower their Part D costs, sometimes considerably, by comparing plans each year. Information on 2024 plans will be posted on the website during the first week of October.

During this time, you can:

  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare
  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Change from one Part D prescription drug plan to another
  • Join a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan (a late enrollment penalty may apply)
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that offers drug coverage to one that doesn’t
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that does not offer drug coverage to one that does

Any changes made during this time period will take effect on January 1. If you do nothing, your plans will renew and include the most recent changes from the ANOC and EOC.

Medigap/Medicare Supplement plans are guaranteed renewable (except in the case of nonpayment) and the timing of enrollment has nothing to do with the Medicare Open Enrollment period. You can apply for a Medigap policy throughout the year but may have to undergo medical underwriting, depending on the circumstances and your state’s Medigap rules. In that case, a medical underwriter will review your application and health history and decide whether to approve or deny your request for insurance. Or, alternatively, approve the insurance for a higher monthly premium.

The Medicare Open Enrollment dates to not pertain to those enrolling in Medicare for the first time. Those beneficiaries are subject to rules and deadlines related to other enrollment periods.

One of the most problematic issues of this period is the relentless influx of mailings and unsolicited phone calls from companies trying to enroll you in plans they represent or, unfortunately, outright scams. There is a higher risk than usual of fraudulent activity and Medicare has definite rules about how plans can and cannot contact you to market their insurance products. Beware of people who try to pressure you into buying policies, tell you that they represent Medicare or try to scare you into believing that you will lose your Medicare benefits unless you sign up for a particular plan. Plans, however, are allowed to mail and email but cannot call or visit you in person without your permission.

For no-cost help during Medicare Open Enrollment—October 15 to December 7—please feel free to contact me. I am trained to compare Medicare coverage, am knowledgeable about plan changes and new plans offered for 2024 and I represent many insurance carriers. This is an important time and there are many coverage options available. Let a trained professional help you make one of the most important health insurance decisions of your lifetime. You don’t have to do this alone!