October 15 – December 7 is Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period

Have you begun your annual Medicare plan review?

Each year, seniors on Medicare have a seven-week period during which they can switch their Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D) and their Medicare Advantage plan. The 2014 Medicare Open Enrollment dates are October 15 – December 7.  Many people are tempted to just stick with the status quo. Yes, that might be easier—but it could also cost you money and make it harder to access the care and medications you need. It’s worth taking some time to review your current plans, and compare them to the other plans available in your area.

Here is a planning calendar from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services:

During September and October:

Review. Your current plan may have changed; review any notices from your plan about changes for the upcoming year.

Compare: Beginning in October, use Medicare’s tools to see if your plan is still the best choice for your needs.

October 15—Open Enrollment Begins

This is the time of year when all people with Medicare can make changes to their health and prescription drug plans for the following year. October 15 is the first day that you can change your coverage. If you are then satisfied that your current plan will meet your needs for the next year, you don’t need to do anything.

December 7—Open Enrollment Ends.

The plan has to receive your enrollment request (application) by December 7.

January 1—Coverage Begins.

Your new coverage begins on January 1 if you switched to a new plan. If you stayed with your old plan, any changes to coverage, benefits and cost will begin on the first day of the year.

January 1 – February 14

If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can leave your plan and switch to Original Medicare between January 1 – February 14. If you switch to Original Medicare during this period, you’ll have until February 14 to also join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to add drug coverage. Your coverage will begin the first day of the month after the plan gets your enrollment form.

Where to Get Help

As you are making your decision, here are places to learn more:

  • Visit the Medicare website (www.medicare.gov), including the Plan Finder (www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/questions/home.aspx) or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and say “Agent.” TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. Help is available 24 hours a day, including weekends. Let the customer service representative know if you need help in a language other than English or Spanish.
  • The 2015 “Medicare & You” handbook should arrive in the mail around October 15. It will include a listing of plans in your area, and much more information.  You also will be able to see the booklet online (www.medicare.gov/medicare-and-you/medicare-and-you.html). (If you go to the site before that date, you will see the 2014 booklet, which may contain information that is out of date.)
  • Review any information you’ve received from your current plan, including the “Annual Notice of Changes” letter.
  • Get free, personalized health insurance information by calling your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).  You can find the number for your state’s SHIP in the Medicare & You handbook, or call 1-800-MEDICARE. Find out if your local SHIP offers workshops or other presentations to help seniors choose the best plans.
  • To see if you qualify for Medicare’s “Extra Help” program that helps pay for medications for seniors with a limited income, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or visit the Social Security website’s “Extra Help” information page (www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare/prescriptionhelp).

Source: Assisting Hands Home Care in association with IlluminAge; excerpts from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.