Health & Medical

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period Deadlines

Seniors who wait until the end of the year to review their Medicare plans and make decisions about keeping or changing policies might be surprised to learn that Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period has been moved up this year and will end Dec. 7 instead of the traditional Dec. 31.

Previously, the annual period for making enrollment decisions ran from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31 for the next plan year, which started Jan. 1. But Medicare decided to give the government and insurance companies more time to process plan paperwork so that seniors could receive membership cards and plan materials by the time coverage starts on the first of the year.

As such, the new Annual Enrollment Period runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. And although that extends the period by an extra week, if you are used to making your Medicare decisions to the warm light of the Yule log burning, you will need to review your plans sooner or you may not be in store for a very happy New Year.

This change affects all Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D. The Annual Enrollment Period does not affect your enrollment in original Medicare or any Medicare supplement plan.

Insurance companies have also been impacted by this change, as they have until Sept. 30 to get their annual notices to beneficiaries explaining coverage changes.

But the key message to seniors and their families is to review current plans and available alternatives earlier this year and make sure any changes get filed by Dec. 7. If this has been a Christmas tradition for you, change it into a new Thanksgiving ritual.

The other message is to spread the word to other seniors and their families so as few people as possible miss the deadline. But if you or someone you know misses the deadline, don’t panic. You do have a few options available.

For the majority of people whose Medicare Advantage or Part D plan will not change, no action is required because you will stay enrolled in your current plan. The only thing you may have missed out on is a better available plan, which is why we all should review current and available plans each year during the Annual Enrollment Period.

If your plan is being changed and you do nothing during the Annual Enrollment Period, you will automatically be re-enrolled in the altered plan. Depending on how the changes meet your personal health care needs, this could be good or bad for you.

If your plan is canceled for next year and you miss the Annual Enrollment Period Deadline, your insurer could do one of two things. First, they could enroll you in a similar plan, if one exists. If this happens, you might find yourself paying different premiums for different coverage, but hopefully close enough to your old plan that it won’t hit you too hard.

The other option for your insurer is they could drop you altogether. This would leave you with only original Medicare coverage.

If your plan is about to be canceled, your insurer is required to send you a notice prior to the Annual Enrollment Deadline stating this. So save all correspondence from your insurer (particularly in September and October) and be sure to act if your plan is being canceled.

If you are a Medicare Advantage beneficiary and do nothing during the Annual Enrollment period, you may drop your Medicare Advantage plan and opt for original Medicare and a Part D plan between Jan. 1 and Feb. 14.

The old Open Enrollment Period where you were allowed to switch like plans from Jan. 1 to March 31 is no longer available, so make sure you and those seniors you know are informed to heed this new Annual Enrollment Period deadline from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.

To get more information call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit http://www.medicare.gov.

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