Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Lets You Switch Plans

The annual period runs from Jan. 1 to March 31.

Kate AshfordJanuary 6, 2021

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If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan but aren’t thrilled with it, you have a chance now to change things up: The annual Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period opened Jan. 1.

During this period, which ends March 31, you’re allowed to take one of the following actions once if you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan:

If you don’t have a Medicare Advantage Plan already, this open enrollment period isn’t for you. For instance, you can't take any of the following steps:

  • Move from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.

  • Join a Medicare drug plan if you have Original Medicare.

  • Move from one Medicare drug plan to another if you have Original Medicare.

(You can take all of these actions during the general Open Enrollment period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.)

Reasons to consider switching

There are several reasons why you might consider switching from your current Medicare Advantage Plan to another one:

  • Lower prescription costs: One of the big differences between Medicare Advantage Plans is the cost of various prescription drugs from plan to plan. If you take any maintenance medications, it’s worth comparing prices between plans. “One medication can make a difference of about $4,000,” says Martha Gonzales, founder of brokerage firm CHM Insurance Services, who also notes that drug pricing is incredibly individual. “I can have a husband and wife right in front of me and make completely different recommendations.”

  • Lower copays: If prescription costs are comparable, consider how many times a year you see a doctor or specialist.

  • Doctors in network: Sometimes, people choose a plan during Medicare Open Enrollment (Oct. 15 to Dec. 7) without knowing whether their doctor is actually part of that network, according to Gonzales. The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period gives them a chance to correct their mistake.

  • Better benefits: Medicare Advantage Plans usually offer additional benefits such as vision, hearing and dental coverage, but coverage from plan to plan will differ, and the best plan for you will depend on your needs. If you think you may need hearing aids this year, for instance, do some checking. Hearing aids “are high-ticket items,” Gonzales says. “If your plan … doesn’t have hearing aid coverage and another one does, that can be a motivating factor.”

The Medicare Plan Finder is a great place to start shopping for Medicare Advantage Plans. You can enter the name, dosage, quantity and frequency of each drug you take regularly, and even the pharmacy where you get prescriptions filled. Filter plans by available benefits, plan type, insurance carrier, drug coverage options and star rating.

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