Have you been thinking about switching over to a different Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan or dropping your current Part C plan and going back to Original Medicare coverage? If so, it’s a good idea to take advantage of the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, also referred to as the MA-OEP, before it ends on March 31.

What is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?

The Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage runs from January 1 to March 31 every year and should not be confused with the Annual Enrollment Period which runs from October 15 to December 7 every year.

The main difference between these two enrollment periods is that the MA-OEP is only for beneficiaries who already have a Medicare Advantage plan. Also, you can’t switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan during the OEP, you can only take that action during the Annual Enrollment Period.

During the MA-OEP, beneficiaries can only make one change in their coverage. Here’s a look at what actions are possible during this enrollment period:

• You can switch Medicare Advantage plans, i.e. go from one Part C plan to another Part C plan.

• You can drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare coverage.

• You can add a Medicare stand-alone prescription drug (Part D) plan to your Original Medicare coverage if you drop your Medicare Advantage plan.

If you drop your Part C plan during the OEP and return to Original Medicare, you also have a chance to enroll in a Medicare Supplement, or Medigap, plan.

What are some reasons for changing Medicare Advantage coverage?

Before you make any changes to your Part C coverage, you should review your current benefits and compare them to what benefits you’d have with different coverage.

Here are some important things to consider while making comparisons:

• Does the new plan cover your preferred physicians, other health care providers, suppliers, and medical facilities?

• Is there a change in the amount of your out-of-pocket costs?

• Do you have different health care needs than the previous year?

• Are you dissatisfied with your current coverage or services you are getting from the provider?

Make sure you know all the options for plans available in your area. Not all health care insurance providers offer Medicare Advantage plans.

If you discuss plan options with a licensed agent, here’s a list of points to consider:

• Does the new plan offer benefits that you don’t currently have?
• Do your health care providers and suppliers accept the new plan?
• Are your prescription drugs included on the new plan’s formulary?
• Does the new plan have benefits that suit your needs?

When does coverage begin with the new Medicare Advantage plan?
Whether you switch back to Original Medicare from your current Part C plan or you join a new Part C plan during the MA-OEP, your new coverage starts on the first day of the month following receipt of your new enrollment request.

If you are concerned about any issues involved in switching your Medicare Advantage plans or returning to Original Medicare coverage, you should discuss them with a licensed insurance agent.

Related articles:

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Are There Reasons to Delay Medicare Benefits?(Opens in a new browser tab)