Medicare Open Enrollment: Time to Shop and Compare

Privately administered Medicare plans — like Medicare Advantage, Medigap and Medicare Plan D — can change their coverage on drugs and other areas, so it's a good idea to check your plan during those times of year when you can switch.

Medicare has one main open enrollment window each year from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, when current Medicare and Medicare Advantage users get a chance to evaluate their coverage and potentially make changes. There's also a separate Medicare Advantage open enrollment period annually from Jan. 1 to March 31.

Open enrollment is the health care user’s chance to evaluate the plan they have, take a look at what’s on the market and update their coverage for the coming year. Open enrollment is for consumers who already have Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage.

During the main open enrollment period, from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, any changes you make will take effect on Jan. 1. During the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period, any changes you make will take effect on the first of the month after the plan receives your request.

There are several things you can alter during open enrollment. From Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, you can do the following things:

From Jan. 1 to March 31, Medicare Advantage open enrollment, you can do the following things:

Choosing a Medicare Advantage Plan can be a little intimidating because there are so many plans available.

There are five different types of Medicare Advantage Plans:

Choosing between Medicare Advantage Plans will require you to understand your health care needs and think about what each type of plan offers. If you have a chronic health condition and you love your doctors, you’ll want health coverage that they accept. If you take prescription drugs, some plans may result in lower out-of-pocket costs than others.

If you’re already in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan during either open enrollment period: Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, or Jan. 1 to March 31. After you join a new plan, you’ll be automatically unenrolled from your old plan once your new one starts.

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