October 9, 2017

Medicare Open Enrollment

The 2018 open enrollment period for Medicare begins on October 15th, 2017 and runs through December 7th, 2017. This is the time to review your current coverage and consider whether you should stay with your current plan(s), or if you should consider switching to another.
You should review the Annual Notice of Change document for your plan which would have been mailed in late September. This document provides a summary comparison of the cost of premiums and co-pays between the current year plan and next year’s plan.  Each year, Medicare Advantage and Part D plans may make changes to their prices and benefits. Therefore, what was right for you in 2017 may not be the right plan for you in 2018, especially if your health needs or prescriptions have changed.
If you decide to stay with your current coverage there is nothing that you need to do during enrollment.  While it may be simpler to stay with your current plans, there is a possibility that you are not in the best plan that fits your needs.  Switching can potentially save you on drug costs, deductibles, and premiums.   But before changing plans be sure that your doctor(s) and hospital are “in-network” and/or that all of your prescriptions are covered on any new plan.

What is Medicare and how do I sign up?

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for eligible U.S. citizens upon obtaining age 65 or older, or those who are under 65 with disabilities.   But many individuals are not aware of how the initial application process works.

There are 3 times that you are able to sign up for Medicare.

  1. The first is the initial enrollment period (IEP) for people who are eligible to receive Medicare when they turn 65 years old. This enrollment period occurs during the 7 month period that starts 3 months before the month you turn age 65. For example, if you turn 65 in June, the initial enrollment period would begin in March, and continue through the end of September (thus the 7 month period is your birthday month plus the 3 months before and the 3 months after). However, if you wait to sign up for Part A until the last 4 months of your initial enrollment period, coverage will be delayed.
  2. The second time you are able to sign up for Medicare is during the special enrollment period. You only have a chance to take advantage of the special enrollment period if you meet specific requirements. If you have group health plan coverage from current employment, you should have a special enrollment period to sign up for Parts A and/or B whenever, as long as you or your spouse are working and that employer provides your group health plan. You have up to two months after the month your coverage ends to enroll.
  3. The third window to enroll in Medicare is during the general enrollment period (GEP). If you do not sign up for Parts A and/or B when you’re first eligible and have no special enrollment period, you would have to wait to enroll in Medicare until the general enrollment period, which takes place from January through March. If you sign up during the general enrollment period, your coverage does not begin until July 1st, no matter which day of the general enrollment period you signed up on.

You also have the option to apply for Medicare when you apply for your social security benefits, which will cause your Medicare coverage to automatically commence when you begin to receive social security benefits. You will then receive coverage for both Parts A and B.  If you are already collecting Social Security prior to age 65, you are automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A & B upon obtaining age 65.


If you have questions or would like to learn more please visit www.medicare.gov.