Enrolling in a Medicare plan for the first time is a fairly straightforward process, and there is a fixed timeline during which you have to enroll in the plan. However, beyond the first opportunity to enroll in Medicare plans, the federal government offers other enrollment windows too, if you have delayed your enrollment for some reason, or if you wish to change your coverage if you are already enrolled in a Medicare plan.
The annual Medicare open enrollment period starts on October 15 and ends on December 7. Medicare open enrollment for 2020 coverage has ended and will start on October 15, 2020, for coverage that will be effective from January 2021. This period is also known as the annual election period during which enrollees of Medicare plan can enroll or reevaluate their coverage. No matter whether you have Original Medicare with supplemental drug coverage, or Medicare Advantage plan, you can make changes during this period as per your wish and choice.
If you are enrolled in Medicare, then during the open enrollment period you can make changes to various aspects of your coverage like:
- You can switch from Original Medicare coverage to Medicare Advantage plan or even vice versa.
- If you did not enroll in a Medicare Part D plan on first becoming eligible, then you have to option to enroll during the open enrollment period, though you may need to pay a late enrollment penalty.
- You can also switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, or from one Medicare Part D plan to another.
If you want to switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage Plan, then you should fulfill the following criteria:
- You should be enrolled in Original Medicare
- You must be living in the plan’s service area
- You should not have End-stage Renal Disease
What are the changes in Medicare Plans in the year 2020?
Changes in the Original Medicare
If you are having original Medicare, then you can expect an increase in your Medicare Part B premiums and deductibles. Medicare Part B monthly premium increased to $144.30 and deductible increased from $185 to $197 in 2020.
Changes in the Medicare Advantage Plans in 2020
- If you are enrolled in Medicare Advantage or Part C plans, then this year gave you more choices and lower premiums. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in the year 2020, there are 3,148 Medicare Advantage plans available, which is an increase of more than 400 plans compared to 2019. The metropolitan areas of the country are heaving an average of 31 Advantage plans whereas non-metropolitan areas are having an average of 16 plans in 2020. However, there are no Medicare Advantage plans available in the seventy-seven counties that account for less than 1% of Medicare beneficiaries.
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that enrollees of Medicare Advantage plans will see a reduction in the costs of the plan:
- In the year 2020, the average monthly premium of Medicare Advantage plan decreased by 14%, and the average price of the plan drop from $26.87 to $23.
- Medicare Advantage plans come with annual deductibles, and these plans have higher deductibles compared to Original Medicare. Original Medicare plans have higher premiums and Advantage plans have higher deductibles.
- Medicare Advantage plans have lower premiums because the market of Medicare Advantage plan is quite competitive. In the year 2020, the average number of Medicare Advantage plans in each county is 39, and it was 33 in the year 2029.
- More of the Medicare Advantage plans come with cost-sharing and additional benefits, which are offered to people suffering from diabetes and congestive heart failure. Around 300 Medicare Advantage plans will offer these additional benefits in 2020.
- In 2020, around 250 Medicare Advantage plans will offer other additional benefits for chronically ill beneficiaries such as transportation to non-medical needs, meals, and an enhanced living environment. These benefits are offered to improve people’s overall health.
- In addition to these, even CMS is allowing Medicare beneficiaries to get new supplemental benefits that will be offered by around 500 Advantage plans and these benefits will include adult care services and caregiver support services.
- As per the Kaiser Family Foundation around 97% of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will have benefits like dental, vision, fitness, and hearing benefits. More than 90% of Advantage members have access to transportation assistance and meal benefits.
- In 2020, Medicare Advantage plans will provide more access to health services and nearly one-third of beneficiaries will have access to telehealth services.
Late Enrollment in Medicare Plans
If you did not sign up for original Medicare when you were first eligible, then you have a chance to enroll from January 1 to March 31 by paying a late enrollment penalty. If you have enrolled during this period, then your coverage will be effective from July 1. For late enrollment in the Medicare Part B plan, you will have to pay the penalty, which is an additional 10% of the premium for each month in which you were eligible but not enrolled. The late enrollment penalty is also for Medicare Part A, though it is applicable to only those who are required to pay premiums for Part A.