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Medicare Open Enrollment Begins October 15


For 2020 coverage, Medicare open enrollment will run from October 15, 2019, to December 7, 2019. During the annual enrollment period (AEP) you can make changes to various aspects of your coverage.

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage.
  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare drug plan to another Medicare drug plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

There are 2 main ways to get Medicare coverage:

Original Medicare – Includes Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). You can use any doctor or hospital that takes Medicare, anywhere in the U.S.

If you don’t get Part D (prescription coverage) or a Medigap policy when you’re first eligible, you may have to pay more to get this coverage later. For Part D, this could mean a lifetime premium penalty.

Medicare Advantage – An “all in one” alternative to Original Medicare. These “bundled” plans include Part A, Part B, and usually Part D. Most plans offer extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover – like vision, hearing, dental, and more.

  • Plans may have lower out-of-pocket costs than Original Medicare.
  • In most cases, you’ll need to use doctors who are in the plan’s network.

Auto-renew your coverage

If you’re already enrolled in a Medicare Part D prescription plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan and you don’t want to make changes to your coverage for the coming year, you don’t need to do anything during open enrollment, assuming your current plan will continue to be available. If your plan is being discontinued and isn’t eligible for renewal, you will receive a non-renewal notice from your carrier prior to open enrollment. If you don’t, it means you can keep your plan without doing anything during open enrollment.

But be aware that your benefits and premium could change from one year to the next. So even if you’re confident that you want to keep your current coverage for next year, it’s important to make sure you understand any changes that may apply, and that you’ve double checked to make sure that your current plan is still the best available option. The available plans and what they cover changes from one year to the next, so even if the plan you have now was the best option when you shopped last year, it’s important to verify that again before you lock yourself in for another year.

2020 Medicare coverage changes

  • Medigap plans that cover the Part B deductible (Medigap plans C and F) will no longer be available for purchase by newly-eligible Medicare beneficiaries. This rule change was part of MACRA (the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015), and it was made because politicians felt that imposing the Part B deductible on all enrollees would help to avoid over-utilization of health care. When a person has Medigap Plan C or Plan F, they can receive all Part B services without any out-of-pocket costs. But if they have a Medigap plan that doesn’t cover the Part B deductible, they have to pay at least $185 for Part B services in 2019 (the Part B deductible increases over time, but it’s much smaller than the deductible under Part A, which can continue to be covered under Medigap plans sold to new enrollees in 2020 and beyond). People who already have Medigap Plans C and F will be able to keep them, and people who are already eligible for Medicare prior to 2020 will still be able to buy those plans. But for newly-eligible enrollees, Plan C and Plan F will be discontinued after the end of 2019.
  • The donut hole is being eliminated in 2020 for generic drugs. (It was eliminated one year ahead of schedule, in 2019, for brand-name drugs). The gap in prescription drug coverage (the donut hole) starts when someone reaches the initial coverage limit ($3,820 in 2019), and ends when they have spent $5,100. Prior to 2011, Medicare Part D enrollees paid the full cost of their medications while in the donut hole. But the ACA has been steadily closing the donut hole, and it will be fully closed by 2020, when enrollees in standard Part D plans will pay just 25 percent of the cost of their drugs all the way up to the catastrophic coverage threshold (many insurers offer plans with lower cost-sharing). The Medicare Part D maximum deductible will be $435 in 2020, up from $415 in 2019 (it increases each year).
  • Medicare Advantage plans will continue to see changes. Medicare Advantage plans continue to gain in popularity. 34 percent of Medicare recipients were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2018—a significant increase from the enrollment total in 2010 when the ACA was signed into law (as of early 2019, CMS reports that about 37 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have private coverage instead of Original Medicare; the vast majority of those enrollees have Medicare Advantage). Most people continue to have numerous Medicare Advantage plans as well as Part D plans available to them. However, these providers can change the coverage options they offer from year to year so it’s important to stay up-to-date.

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