Medicare open enrollment came and went last fall, and now you’re a few weeks into the New Year – and that new Medicare Advantage plan you selected. We hope you’re happy with the coverage you’re getting, but if you’re not, this article from the CNBC website contains some good news: you have a chance to pick another plan.
You Get to Change Your Mind by March 31st
“If that Medicare Advantage Plan you picked isn’t working out, you’ll be glad to know you get a do-over,” says the CNBC article which was published last week. “Effective this year, you get a chance between January 1 and March 31 to swap it for another Advantage Plan.” There could be several reasons why leaving the new plan you just started might be on your mind. “Maybe you discovered your doctor isn’t in network, or your medications aren’t covered, or you don’t like the customer service,” said Elizabeth Gavino, an independent Medicare broker. “If that’s the case, there could be a better option.”
Changes in the rules also allow you to make other adjustments. If, for example, you picked a Medicare Advantage plan but now want to switch back to original Medicare, you can also do that prior to the end of March. And if you missed your original window to enroll in Medicare and don’t qualify for an exemption, you may be able to sign up without penalty by March 31st and start coverage July 1st.
Test-Drive Your Medicare Advantage Plan
As this Medicare-related website explained, “Before 2019, you were limited in your ability to switch Medicare Advantage plans outside of open season. Beginning January 1, 2019, you can test-drive your Medicare Advantage plan and, if you are not satisfied after three months, you can switch back to Original Medicare (Part A, B, and D), or to another Medicare Advantage Plan.” Your coverage under the new plan will take effect the first of the month following your change of plans.
As helpful as this new “do-over” time period is, your choices are not unlimited. “For this current period,” reports CNBC, “there are restrictions. For starters, you can only switch once. This means that once you move to a different Advantage Plan, it’s locked in until the next fall enrollment (unless you meet an exclusion).” In addition, the new rules don’t permit beneficiaries to switch from one stand-alone Part D drug plan to another or to switch from original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan. Those changes would have to have been done during open enrollment which ended in early December.
Policy-holders taking advantage of this early-2019 window to change from Medicare Advantage back to original Medicare will need to enroll in a stand-alone prescription drug plan if they had one under the plan they’re leaving. “This matters,” warns CNBC, “because if you go 63 days without the coverage, you may face a lifelong penalty that gets tacked on to your premiums.” One more caution from the article: “If you switch back to original Medicare and want to get a supplemental policy (also called Medigap), you might need to be approved by the insurer, depending on where you live and exactly how long you’ve had your plan.” This may come as a surprise, so do your homework before assuming you’ll automatically qualify for Medigap coverage.
Plenty of Medicare Advantage Choices for Most Americans
One thing is certain, according to CNBC: if you are still considering a Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll likely have plenty of choices. The average beneficiary can select from 24 medical plans and 27 stand-alone drug plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. (By contrast, if you’re in a rural county, your picture is radically different: there are 115 counties in America where residents only have one Medicare Advantage plan to choose from.)
“Because this enrollment window gives you one shot to make a change, make sure you know what you’re signing up for,” CNBC says. “In other words, make sure that any medicine you take is on the plan’s approved list and that your doctor and pharmacy are in-network.” Making the right choice, especially during this “do-over” period, is vitally important. If you’ll contact our AgingOptions office we can help you get the information you need to select the plan that meets your needs.
Get the Proper Advice
Expert advice concerning everything related to retirement is our specialty here at AgingOptions. We not only have highly-trained and experienced subject-matter experts working as part of our AgingOptions team, but we also utilize a network of like-minded professionals to advise you on everything from detailed financial planning to reverse mortgages to long-term care insurance to care coordination for families. We can serve as your “trail guide” on the journey to a safe, secure, rewarding retirement, no matter what your circumstances. What sets us apart from other so-called retirement planners is our holistic focus, blending together the critical elements that make up a successful plan: medical, housing, financial, legal and family. Once you experience the power of a LifePlan from AgingOptions, you’ll realize it’s the only type of retirement plan that can help you fulfill your dreams for the future.
Rajiv Nagaich of AgingOptions invites you to join him at one of our highly popular LifePlanning Seminars, offered absolutely free at locations throughout the region. You’ll find a complete calendar of currently scheduled seminars here on our Live Events page, where you can register for the seminar of your choice. Of course, feel free to call our office if we can assist you or answer any questions. Don’t let confusion or fear about the future paralyze you into indecision. Take action today and you can secure a brighter tomorrow, thanks to AgingOptions. Age on!
(originally reported at www.cnbc.com)