Have a Medicare Advantage Plan? Do This Before March 31

If you’re a senior enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, now is the time you might consider a change.

That’s because we’re in the middle of Medicare Advantage’s open enrollment period, which runs from Jan. 1 through March 31. It’s not a set of dates you need to know about if you’re enrolled in original Medicare—that group isn’t eligible to switch to an Advantage plan. But those with an Advantage plan—roughly 1/3 of the 61 million Americans with Medicare—have the chance to jump to a more suitable plan if there’s one to be had. And there very well might be.

There are two ways you can change your Advantage plan during open enrollment:

  • Switch to a new Advantage plan.
  • Leave Medicare Advantage altogether, replace it with original Medicare, and purchase a Part D drug plan.

Why might you want to make a change? You may have selected a plan during Annual Enrollment that isn’t a good fit or missed the chance to change your Advantage plan. Understanding the differences between Medicare Advantage plans and original Medicare is key.

The big advantage to Medicare Advantage, Part C, is that it can cost less and get you more. Those with original Medicare (aka, Part A hospital coverage and Part B outpatient coverage) generally need to also purchase Part D in order to have prescription drug coverage, and original Medicare doesn’t include coverage for things like dental care, eye exams, and hearing aids. Many Medicare Advantage plans do cover those things, plus extras like gym memberships, and sometimes at lower premiums.

The trade-off is that Medicare Advantage plans limit you to a specific network of doctors, healthcare providers, and pharmacies that is usually tied to your geographic area. What’s not tied down are the providers, meaning the doctor you’ve come to like could leave your network. If that has happened to you, checking to see if there’s another plan that includes the doctor you want to hang onto makes sense. Ditto if you want 2020 to be a year of travel or have decided to live in more than one location. If this is the case, leaving your Advantage plan and replacing it with Original Medicare plus a drug plan and a Supplement is an option.

Even if neither of those apply, now is still a good time to review your plan’s details to make sure it’s still a good fit. Medicare Advantage plans aren’t set in stone, meaning a benefit you’ve previously enjoyed or a drug you take that’s long been covered may suddenly drop from your plan. If that’s the case, it’s time to take a fresh look at your options. And there may be more options than the last time you checked: The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that in 2020, the average beneficiary is able to select from 28 plans; in 2019, that average was 24 plans.

But if you’re going to make the swap, do it wisely. You can only make one new plan election during the open enrollment period, meaning once you change, you’re locked in for all of 2020. And there are some potential pitfalls—all of which our professional, independent advisors can help you avoid. For instance, if you’re switching back to original Medicare and want to get a supplemental policy (known as Medigap), coverage isn’t guaranteed. You’ll want to apply for this first to be sure you’re approved before canceling your Advantage plan and enrolling in the Part D prescription drug plan.

We know that the idea of revisiting the health-care decisions you’ve already made can sound frustrating and exhausting. The experienced advisors at Senior Financial Group are here to make it easy and empowering. They’re available to help you navigate through your current options and get you the best coverage with the lowest rates. Contact one of our advisors to discuss your Medicare Advantage plan here.


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