As the years go by, everyone’s health care needs change, and Medicare plans change too. If you are enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B, your coverage might change at the start of a new year, and costs almost always go up annually. The CMS makes yearly cost adjustments to monthly premiums, copayments, deductibles, and coinsurances according to inflation and other economic issues.
If you have your health care coverage through a private Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, or if you have prescription drug coverage from a Medicare Part D plan, your costs may also change yearly. Because your plan provider can make changes to its formulary, who it includes in its network of providers and suppliers, or the services it covers, you may find your costs going up. Changing your Part C or Part D plan can save you money if you find one that suits your needs more appropriately.
Many people find that when they first enroll in Medicare, they don’t need as much coverage as they do later on in life. Not having comprehensive health care coverage when you need it can lead to greater out-of-pocket expenses.
For the reasons mentioned above, it’s a good idea for Medicare enrollees to take time to compare Medicare plan options before signing up. It’s important to do this before committing to your first Medicare plan and to continue comparing plans on a regular basis. This helps you find one that suits your financial or medical needs more closely.
Does Medicare inform enrollees about changes to plans?
When you enroll in a Medicare plan, every fall you receive an Evidence of Coverage (EOC) document and an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) document. Your EOC gives you all the information about your plan’s coverage and costs. Your ANOC informs you of any changes to your plan that are going into effect for the new year. When you get these documents, it’s a perfect time to study your plan to see what your new costs and coverage will be for the upcoming year. It’s also a good time to compare your plan to other available plans in your area to ensure that you are getting the most coverage for your money.
When can you switch Medicare plans?
After examining your current plan’s changes and comparing it with other plans, you might decide to switch plans. You can do this during Medicare’s Annual Election Period (AEP).
The Annual Election Period AEP runs from October 15th to December 7th every year. During AEP, you can make the following changes to your Medicare coverage:
• Switch from Original Medicare Parts A and B to a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan.
• Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare Parts A and B.
• Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another Medicare Advantage plan.
• Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t have prescription drug coverage to one that does have this coverage – or vice versa.
• You can also join, change, or drop a Medicare stand-alone Part D Prescription Drug Plan.
There are no penalties for making the above-mentioned changes during the Annual Election Period (AEP). If you find that you aren’t getting the health care coverage you need, your current plan is too expensive, or your plan no longer covers visits to the health care providers you prefer, you can find a new plan and switch to it during this period of time. You may also be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period during the year if you experience certain life events, like losing your employer-sponsored coverage or moving out of your current plan’s service area.