Medicare isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Many seniors, in fact, opt for Medicare Advantage over original Medicare because it offers certain benefits, like coverage for additional services (think dental, hearing, and vision) and caps on annual out-of-pocket spending, that original Medicare does not.

However, what if you're enrolled in Medicare Advantage but aren't thrilled with your plan choice? What if you find its network of providers too restrictive, or you realize there's a better plan out there for you?

This year, you're in luck. Thanks to the new Medicare Advantage open enrollment period, you have the option to switch plans if you're dissatisfied with the one you're currently on. But you'll need to act quickly -- you only have between Jan. 1 and March 31 to take advantage (no pun intended) of this new enrollment window, so if you're eager to make a change, you'd better get moving.

An older man smiling in front of a fireplace


How the new Medicare Advantage open enrollment period works

As the name implies, the new Medicare Advantage open enrollment period is designed for seniors who are currently enrolled in an Advantage plan. If you're enrolled in original Medicare, it doesn't apply to you.

During the Jan. 1 to March 31 window, you can do the following:

  • Switch from one Advantage plan to another
  • Drop your Advantage plan and enroll in original Medicare
  • Sign up for a Part D drug plan once you've dropped your Advantage plan and are back on original Medicare.

Keep in mind that if you don't make changes to your healthcare coverage by March 31, you may need to wait until Medicare's general open enrollment period of Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 to switch plans.

Should you get a new Advantage plan?

If you're unhappy with your current Advantage plan, then it pays to shop around for a new one. This especially holds true in light of new rules allowing Advantage plans to offer a wider range of benefits for enrollees.

Specifically, some plans are now offering supplemental benefits that focus on enhancing qualify of life. These include:

  • In-home meal delivery
  • Transportation to and from medical offices and pharmacies
  • Home safety features (like bath or shower safety bars)
  • Air purifiers to address breathing issues
  • Cooking classes for those in need of dietary improvement

Best of all, these added benefits may not result in higher premiums. In fact, Medicare Advantage premiums in 2020 are expected to come in 23% lower than they were in 2018.

Keep in mind that not everyone will qualify for the aforementioned benefits, as they're largely reserved for enrollees with chronic conditions. For example, you may only qualify for cooking classes if you have diabetes or another condition for which dietary improvements are critical. Still, a new Advantage plan could offer more wellness benefits, like a covered gym membership, so it's worth exploring your options. But don't delay -- you only get a specific window of time to switch Advantage plans or drop Advantage completely if you feel you'll be better off with original Medicare, so the sooner you start exploring your options, the better.