Medicare's open enrollment is already upon us, and if you're a current enrollee, now's your time to look into making changes for your coverage for 2020. You have several options in this regard. You can:

  • Switch from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa
  • Switch from one Advantage plan to another
  • Switch from one Part D drug plan to another

The last option is particularly important, because Part D plans are notorious for changing their coverage from year to year. And if you don't review your plan choices for 2020, you could wind up seriously regretting it.

Don't assume you should keep your Part D plan

If you're unhappy with your Part D plan, you'll clearly be motivated to explore alternatives. But if you're reasonably satisfied with your coverage, you may be inclined to keep the same plan going into 2020.

A row of medication bottles on a medicine-cabinet shelf


Here's the problem with that approach: Each Part D plan has a formulary that places drugs into different tiers. These tiers dictate your medication costs under your plan (the higher the tier your prescriptions fall into, the more they can cost you). Plan formularies, however, can change from year to year, and if the medications you take are bumped into a higher tier, your personal costs could skyrocket.

That's why it's crucial to review your Part D coverage every year during open enrollment and see if there's a better drug plan out there for you. Investing a little time could save you a fair amount of money.

Keep in mind, too, that even if your plan's formulary doesn't change, your own medication needs could change. And that, too, should prompt you to review your plan choices.

If you're not sure where to start in this regard, you can lean on Medicare's Plan Finder. This tool lets you enter information like your ZIP code and prescription details to dig up plan options that are the most suitable for you. It also offers ratings on Part D plans, so you can compare your options and see which rank highest in terms of things like pricing and customer service. One thing you should know, however, is that the Plan Finder was recently updated, so if you've used it in the past, your experience may be a bit different this time around. And you may need to reenter information you previously put into the system, so build in some time for that.

Don't wait to do your research

Combing through your Part D plan options takes time; while Medicare open enrollment runs through Dec. 7, you don't want to wait too long to start researching plans. The sooner you get started, the less likely you'll be to feel pressured to decide on a plan when you're not ready.

That said, it's not just your Part D plan you should think about switching up. If your healthcare needs have changed on the whole, it may be wise to look into different Advantage plans, or see about moving back and forth between Advantage and original Medicare. Ultimately, your goal should be to secure the best coverage for yourself at the most competitive price.