It’s amazing how things can change in one year. In 2018, the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period ran from Jan. 1 through Feb. 14. For 2019, it no longer exists.
Instead, there is a new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period that runs from Jan. 1 through March 31.
This new Open Enrollment Period allows people enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan to:
- Switch to another MA plan
- Drop an MA plan and return to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B)
- Sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (if returning to Original Medicare)
You must have MA coverage during this time period in order to make any changes.
Why switch MA plans?
While the core benefits remain largely the same among MA plans, some of the extra benefits (beyond Part A and Part B coverage) can change from year to year. The list of covered prescription drugs may add or drop drugs, for example.
If you haven’t actually read the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and the Evidence of Coverage (EOC) documents you received from your health insurer last September, you should do that now to see what may have changed.
Why switch from MA to Original Medicare?
MA plans offer lower premium costs but come with restrictions on the doctors you can see. When you choose Original Medicare, there is no network—you can see any doctor in America who accepts Medicare. You go from the MA plan’s narrow network of health care providers to coverage that has providers in every state! You can see whatever doctor, physician assistant, or other practitioner you like, as long as they accept Medicare.
Options when returning to Original Medicare
If you choose to return to Original Medicare, you can add a Medicare supplement to help cover your medical costs.
You may also make a coordinating change to add a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan (PDP). Because most MA plans include drug coverage, you can’t enroll in Part D while enrolled in those plans. However, once you change back to Original Medicare, you are once again eligible for Part D coverage. If you already have a Part D plan, you cannot change your Part D coverage right now. This Open Enrollment Period is for MA plans only.
One last note
Do not confuse the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period with the Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 each year. That’s an entirely separate enrollment period. See medicare.gov for more information.
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