4 Changes You Can Make During Medicare Open Enrollment

Happy doctor talking to senior male patient while being in a home visit.
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The annual Medicare Open Enrollment period that begins on Oct. 15, 2022, gives recipients a chance to make changes to their coverage that could possibly save them thousands of dollars. Open enrollment lasts through Dec. 7, 2022, and any changes will go into effect in 2023.

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Your options for making changes differ depending on whether you are enrolled in original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage (MA) private insurance plan. Here are four changes you can make during the open enrollment period:

Change from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage, also known as Part C, is a private insurance alternative to original Medicare that bundles together Parts A and B and, in most cases, the Part D drug plan. Before switching over, make sure your providers are part of the network in the MA plan you are considering.

As the AARP noted, you will likely be subject to more management of your care with an Advantage plan. For example, some plans will require referrals to specialists, and MA plans often must authorize certain diagnostic tests and other services.

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Change from Medicare Advantage Back to Original Medicare

You are allowed to make this switch, but if you do, you might not be able to get Medicare supplemental insurance, also known as Medigap insurance. Medigap helps pay for expenses not covered by original Medicare. For example, under Part B you have to pay 20% of the cost of a doctor’s visit or lab test. Medigap can also help cover certain copays and coinsurance.

You can buy a Medigap policy at any time during the year and change your Medigap coverage at any time during the year. Even if you can still get Medigap insurance by switching from Medicare Advantage back to the original Medicare, you might face expensive premiums for it.

Switch Between Medicare Advantage Plans

AARP suggests using the open enrollment period to review your current Medicare Advantage plan and shop around to see if there is a different plan in your area that better suits your needs and helps you save money.

Every September, MA plans are required to send members a letter, called the Annual Notice of Change, that details changes the plan will make starting in January. These changes typically involve benefits, costs or the geographic coverage area. Use this information to help you decide whether to stay with your current MA plan, change to a different one, or switch to original Medicare. If you are already in an MA plan, you’ll get extra time to decide what to do — the special open enrollment period to switch runs from Jan. 1 through March 31.

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Change Your Part D Plan

If you do not have an MA plan, you probably get your prescription drugs through Medicare Part D. During the open enrollment period you should check to see if the medications you take are still covered under your current Part D plan — and how much they cost. Also, check which pharmacies are preferred by your current plan and whether those pharmacies are still the most convenient. You should also find out whether you can save money by getting your drugs through the mail, and whether your plan offers that option

Some Medicare customers stay with the same drug plan for years and end up missing opportunities to save money, said Tricia Neuman, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation and executive director of its Program on Medicare Policy.

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“Sticking with a plan can come at a cost because drug plans do change from one year to the next, and people’s drug needs change over time,” Neuman told AARP. “We’ve seen people save hundreds if not thousands of dollars by comparing plans.”

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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