Medicare Open Enrollment: Six Things To Do Right Now

Medicare Open Enrollment Ends December 7

October 15 - December 7, 2016

If you have a Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan, Open Enrollment runs October 15 through December 7 and is the time most people can make changes to their plan. Even if you’re happy with your current coverage, you might find something that’s a better fit for your budget or your health needs. If you miss an Open Enrollment deadline, you’ll most likely have to wait a full year before you can make changes to your plan.

If you or an elderly loved one are covered by Medicare, here are six important things you can do to get ready for Medicare Open Enrollment.

1. Confirm that Open Enrollment applies to you.

The 10/15—12/7 Open Enrollment isn’t for everyone. If you are a resident of a nursing home, recipient of Medicaid, Extra Help, or the Medicare Savings Program, you receive a Medicare Special Enrollment Period and can make changes throughout the year. Also, if new to Medicare, you will be given an initial opportunity to make choices.

2. Review your plan notice.

Be sure to read any notices from your Medicare plan about changes for next year, especially your “Annual Notice of Change” letter. Look at your plan’s information to make sure your drugs are still covered and your doctors are still in network.

3. Think about what matters most to you.

Medicare Advantage and drug plans change each year and so can your health needs. Do you need a new primary care doctor? Does your network include the specialist you want for an upcoming surgery? Is your new medication covered by your current plan? Does another plan offer the same value at a lower cost? Take stock of your health status and determine if you need to make a change.

4. Find out if you qualify for help paying for your Medicare.

Learn about programs in your state to help with the costs of Medicare premiums, your Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductibles, coinsurance and copayments and Medicare prescription drug coverage costs. You can do this by visiting or making an appointment with a local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselor.

5. Shop for plans that meet your needs and fit your budget.

Starting in October, you can use Medicare’s plan finder tool at to see what other plans are offered in your area. A new plan may cost less, cover your drugs, or let you go to the providers you want, like your doctor or pharmacy.

If you find that your current coverage still meets your needs, then you’re done.

Remember, during Medicare Open Enrollment, you can decide to stay in Original Medicare or join a Medicare Advantage Plan. If you’re already in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch back to Original Medicare and enroll in a Medicare drug plan.

6. Check your plan’s star rating before you enroll.

The Medicare Plan Finder has been updated with the 2016 Star Ratings for Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans. Plans are given an overall quality rating on a 1 to 5 star scale, with 1 star representing poor performance and 5 stars representing excellent performance. Use the Star Ratings to compare the quality of health and drug plans being offered.

These are a few easy ways to get a jump start on your Medicare Open Enrollment. For more information, call 800-MEDICARE [(800)633-4227)], and say “Agent” or visit a local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselor for free, one-on-one, Medicare assistance. To access SHIP in Middle Tennessee, call (877) 801-0044.

If you are an Elder Law Practice client with a Life Care Plan, Medicare assistance is part of your service package. Just give the office a call. We are happy to help.~


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