Understanding Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans Open Enrollment Period

It is important for seniors to understand when they can enroll in the different parts of Medicare. We are going to focus on Medicare Advantage Plans (Medicare Part C) and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Medicare Part D). Who can sign up and when can they sign up will be covered here.

When Can Someone Sign Up?

There are defined periods when someone can sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare prescription drug coverage, or make alterations to their existing coverage. The first such period is if you are newly eligible for Medicare because you just turned 65. You can sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan with or without prescription drug coverage or a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan during a 7-month period around your 65th birthday. The period covers the 3 months before the month in which you turn 65, the month in which you turn 65, and the 3 months after you have turned 65.

Individuals who are newly eligible for Medicare because they are disabled and under 65 can sign up 21 months after they start receiving Social Security or RRB benefits. Your opportunity to sign up will last through the 27th month after receiving Social Security or RRB benefits, and coverage begins on the 24th month.

If you do not have Medicare Part A coverage, and you enroll in Medicare Part B coverage during the Part B General Enrollment Period (January 1st – March 31st), you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan and/or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan between April 1st and June 30th.

Enrollment Periods Each Year

Each year you will have the opportunity to make changes to your Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare prescription coverage for the following year. The first period is the Open Enrollment Period. The dates sometimes change year to year, but generally are from about October 1st to December 1st.

During Open Enrollment you can change from Traditional Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan, change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Traditional Medicare, switch from your current Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan, make the leap from an Advantage plan that does not offer prescription drug coverage to one that does or vice-versa, join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, or drop your Medicare Prescription Drug coverage completely.

The second enrollment period is from January 1st to February 14th. During this time you may switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan into Traditional Medicare. Your coverage will begin the first day of the following month. If you do make the switch, you will have until February 14th to also join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan if you wish to.

Special Enrollment Periods

There are certain circumstances in which you would qualify for special enrollment periods. These are as follows:

  1. You move.
  2. You become eligible for Medicaid.
  3. You qualify for extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs.
  4. You are receiving care in an institution such as a long-term care facility.

If you fit once of these circumstance, you will want to visit the Medicare website for further details and rules that apply.

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