Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period begins Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7.  This annual event is your opportunity to review your coverage and make changes that will take effect on Jan. 1.

This happens every year because Medicare updates the limits on Parts A, B, and D — including the deductibles, copays, and coinsurance — and Medicare insurance providers make changes to their plans in response. The AEP gives you a chance to preview the changes and make any of the following adjustments:

       Part C Advantage Plans

  • Drop your current Part C Advantage plan and enroll in a new Part C Advantage plan.
  • Move from your current Advantage plan back to Original Medicare Part A (you will need to add a prescription drug plan, known as Part D).
  • Drop your Medicare Supplement/Medigap policy and enroll in a Part C Advantage plan.

      Part D Drug coverage

  • Drop your current drug plan and enroll in a new plan.
  • Drop your drug coverage if you have other credible drug coverage available.

Jerold Johnson (Photo: submitted)

Your current Part C Advantage plan or your current Part D stand-alone drug plan sends out an Annual Notice of Change in September. This includes any modifications to coverage, service areas, costs, drug formularies, or pharmacy and provider networks that will be effective January 2021.

You receive this by mail or electronically depending on your chosen communication preference. Don’t overlook this important piece of correspondence. You’ll need it to compare the coverage you currently have with what your plan will offer next year and decide if you want to make changes during the enrollment period.

We have not mentioned updating or reviewing any changes to your Medicare Supplement (known as Medigap) coverage during enrollment period because you have the ability to change this at any time should you want to switch to a different supplement provider. Be aware that when you switch to a new Medicare Supplement plan or carrier, you will need to answer underwriting questions and you may pay higher rates or be declined coverage depending on your health history.

If we were walking you through the Annual Enrollment Period, we’d tell you to:

1. Make a list of your current prescriptions, doctors and specialists, plan changes and questions.

Detail any fluctuations in your health, income, or prescription drug prices. Organizing this information will make your enrollment experience easier to manage.

2. Compare plans and sign up for a new one if warranted.

There are two ways you can do this: Visit and do it yourself using their online tools, or contact an independent Medicare insurance agent. They can run comparisons and present you with their recommendation based upon your situation. They can also sign you up for your new plan(s), which is a good way to protect yourself if there are problems with enrollment.

3. Keep track of both deadlines.

Open enrollment ends Dec. 7, 2020. But 2021 starts with a three-month grace period that runs from January through March, during which you can make a one-time change. If you are dissatisfied with the Medicare Advantage Plan you chose, you can change to another plan one time during this grace period. If you decide to switch back to Original Medicare, you can sign up for Part D coverage. If you already have Original Medicare and Part D as your coverage, you may not change your Medicare Part D plan until the next enrollment, unless you have a special enrollment period

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