Open Enrollment was moved to start earlier this year, but that also means the deadline is earlier as well. Regardless of what type of Medicare you have (Original, Advantage or Part D) – now is the time to make any changes for the following year! Beginning October 15 and ending December 7, Medicare’s Annual Election Period, more commonly known as open enrollment, is the perfect time to survey your current needs and compare plans to ensure you have the best coverage for you. Doing so can save you money!

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What has changed over the past year?
  • Have I been diagnosed with a new medical condition?
  • Have any of my medications changed?
  • Have I moved to a new area of town or a new town or state all together?

Changes in your condition or location can indicate your plan may need updating. It is possible that you are paying for too much coverage, or that you are not being covered in the areas most important to your situation.

Medicare Changes

It’s important to keep in mind Medicare plans also change from year to year. Costs can go up or down, benefits offered can be added or dropped, territories can be redrawn and the list of prescription drugs covered can fluctuate. This is why it is crucial to evaluate all the plans and how they might have changed during this open enrollment period. You might find switching to a different plan can benefit you more OR you might find that you are better off right where you are.

By visiting Medicare.gov or calling 800-MEDICARE, you can compare the plans available and enroll in a new plan if you choose. Selections you make will not take effect until January 1, 2012.

What are the options during open enrollment? You can…

  • Switch from Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) to a Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to a different Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan offering drug coverage to different Medicare Advantage Plan that also offers drug coverage
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan offering drug coverage to a different Medicare Advantage Plan that does not offer drug coverage
  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
  • Drop the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan all together
  • Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to a different Medicare Prescription Drug Plan

Medicare has a handy dandy online plan finder program specifically for prescription drugs. Enter your ZIP code, the names of the drugs you take, their dosages and how often you take them and with the click of the mouse it will indicate the plan in your area covering your drugs at the least overall out-of-pocket cost.

Many enrollees don’t bother to compare all the plans available, and as a result, fewer than seven percent are in a plan that offers the lowest out-of-pocket costs. By simply comparing and contrasting the plans, you could be saving yourself several hundred dollars next year. And that can make a huge difference in this tight economy!

Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living