How to change Medicare plans — and why you might want to

Open Medicare enrollment will begin soon, but 7 out of 10 Medicare beneficiaries say they do not compare Medicare plans during this period, according to a 2021 analysis by KFF, a health policy nonprofit.

That’s not great, since Medicare Advantage plans, which work much like the private insurance you may have had through an employer, change from year to year. One of your doctors may have gone offline or the prices of your prescription drugs may have risen. And people with Original Medicare should compare their coverage for Part D prescription drugs.

Here’s how to deal with changing Medicare plans.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF REGISTRATION PERIODS

If you have a Medicare plan, your open Medicare membership from October 15 to December 7 is your opportunity to change your coverage. You can switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa, or enroll or change plans for Medicare Part D prescription drugs.

If you have Medicare Advantage, you can also use your Medicare Advantage open enrollment from January 1 through March 31 of each year to switch plans or return to Original Medicare and enroll in a Medicare Part D drug plan.

CONSIDER PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

If you’re taking prescription drugs, understand how your current plan will cover them in 2023 and whether another plan might be more affordable.

“It can be as simple as putting drugs on Medicare.gov,” says Scott Maibor, a Medicare consultant based in Boston. “You should at least check that ‘This is the plan I am following, this is the recommended plan, what are the savings?'”

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This is because Part D prescription drug plans, regardless of whether you are using Original Medicare or receiving coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan, can change annually. You may find that one of your prescriptions will cost more in 2023 or that your plan will stop covering it. Or you may have started a new drug and can find a plan that charges you less for it.

Don’t forget to browse your favorite drug plan pharmacies. “Sometimes it’s not even just a question of cost, it’s a question of location,” says Karen Schechter, director and assistant professor of health management and health administration programs at Maryville University. “If I’m someone who needs to refill a recipe once a month, I might not want to go somewhere far away.”

THINK HARD BEFORE COLLECTING YOUR MEDIGAP PLAN

You are eligible for a Medicare Supplement Insurance, or Medigap, plan once you are 65 or older and have Medicare Part B. This six-month Medigap open enrollment period occurs only once and you can purchase any policy you want, regardless of yours. health. After that, you may not be able to get a Medigap plan or it may cost more.

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Medigap pays many of the direct costs of Original Medicare. If you have a severe or chronic health condition, this can lead to significant cost savings. Some people switch to Medicare Advantage plans during open enrollment, not realizing that they may not be able to revert to a Medigap plan at a later time.

“Our clients are sitting at home, they’re seeing these commercials on television about free gym memberships, zero rewards, and they go ahead and make changes on their own,” says Emily Gang, owner of The Medicare Coach. “They realize at the beginning of the year that they have made a mistake and we cannot go back.”

COMPLETE THE PROCESS

To sign up for a new plan, you will need your Medicare number and the start date of Part A and / or Part B coverage. (All of this information is on your Medicare card.)

You may be able to sign up online, but you may also need to make a call or two:

– If you are switching from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, you will be automatically canceled from your previous plan once the new coverage takes effect.

– If you are switching from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare, call 800-MEDICARE to make the change or call the plan provider to deregister. Don’t forget to sign up for prescription drug coverage (Part D) to avoid paying a penalty.

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– If you are switching from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, your new plan will transfer your benefits from Medicare.

– If you are changing your Part D drug plans, your old coverage will expire when your new coverage begins.

– If you stay with your current plan, do nothing. Your coverage will automatically renew.

__________________________

This article was provided to the Associated Press by the personal finance site NerdWallet. Kate Ashford is a NerdWallet writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @kateashford.

RELATED LINKS:

NerdWallet: Medicare Open Enrollment 2022: What you need to know https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-medicare-open-enrollment

METHODOLOGY:

According to KFF, its analysis used survey data for community-resident Medicare beneficiaries from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) 2019 survey file. The analysis was weighted to represent the Medicare population never enrolled in 2019 using the KNSEWT topical survey weight and related replicate weights. The analysis excludes beneficiaries who reported having just enrolled in Medicare.

The analysis excludes beneficiaries with Part A or Part B only and those with Medicare as a secondary taxpayer. The results of all statistical tests reported with p0.05 are considered statistically significant.

KFF. (October 2021). “Seven out of ten Medicare beneficiaries did not compare plans during the past open enrollment period.” https://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/seven-in-ten-medicare-beneficiaries-did-not-compare-plans-during-past-open-enrollment-period/



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