How to Pick a Medicare Advantage Plan During Medicare's Annual Election Period

Robert Powell, CFP®

Second of a three-part series

Medicare’s annual election period runs from Oct. 15 through December 7.

And during that time, according to Medicare, here’s what you can do with respect to Medicare Advantage plans.

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan. 
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare. (This could leave you unlimited financial downside if you don't enroll in a Medigap plan, says Jae Oh, author of Maximize Your Medicare.)
    But yes, technically true.
  • 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. (This would leave you with no creditable drug coverage, according to Jae Oh.)
  • Join a Medicare drug plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare drug plan to another Medicare drug plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely. (This would leave you with no creditable drug coverage, according to Oh.)
  • from this: 

From his perspective, Oh says there are two big changes that beneficiaries evaluating Medicare Advantage plans should know. 

One, ESRD patients will have the unrestricted right to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. And two, the explosion in the number of Medicare Advantage options in your local area will likely continue into 2021.

There is, of course, variation in the number of plans by geographic area. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, beneficiaries in metropolitan areas in 2020 were able to choose from more than twice as many Medicare Advantage plans as beneficiaries in non-metropolitan areas (31 plans versus 16 plans, respectively).

Oh also said that beneficiaries who require financial assistance, and particularly those on Medicaid, have access to plans that have additional benefits on top of what Medicare and Medicaid provide.

So, how might you go about finding a Medicare Advantage Plan that’s right for you?

1. Start with Medicare’s Plan Finder tool. “Medicare.gov It is a good starting point,” says Oh. But, it’s important to under the Plan Finder’s limitations. First, it doesn’t examine the network for you. And two, you have to examine what your anticipated prescription drugs costs will be under the different plans because, says Oh, the handling of prescription benefits by Medicare Advantage plans “varies wildly.”

Also, check out Oh’s video explaining how to pick a Medicare Advantage plan.

2. Your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) will provide you in-depth, one-on-one insurance counseling and assistance with Medicare.

3. Contact a professional, such as Oh, for a consultation. Here’s a link to request a consultation with Oh.

Oh also noted that choosing the right versus the wrong plan could have large financial consequences. The financial results of different selections you make is not $50 a year,” he says. “It can be thousands of dollars a year.”

Also read:

- How to pick a Part D prescription drug plan 

- How to pick a Medigap plan 

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Comments (3)
No. 1-1
SilkMD
SilkMD

I think the restrictions you list may not apply during the ÄEP (Oct 15 to Dec 7) but only to Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment (Jan 1 to Mar 31)


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