When it comes to Medicare coverage, you have choices. You can opt for original Medicare, which gives you hospital coverage under Part A and outpatient coverage under Part B, and sign up for a Part D plan to go along with it, or you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan instead. Advantage plans are offered by private insurers and are required to provide at least the same level of coverage as original Medicare. And often, Advantage plans offer added benefits, like coverage for dental care, eye exams, hearing aids, and supplemental benefits, like meal delivery services.
If you recently switched to a new Medicare Advantage plan during fall open enrollment, or decided to keep the plan you had last year, you may be regretting that decision already. This especially holds true if the plan you got used to has changed for the worse, or if you're new to your plan and are having trouble finding providers within your approved network.
Either way, if you're unhappy with your health coverage, there's good news -- you're not stuck with it all year. That's because Medicare Advantage has its own specific open enrollment period that runs from Jan. 1 through March 31 each year, and that affords you an opportunity to make changes.
How to benefit from Medicare Advantage's open enrollment period
Seniors who chose a Part D drug plan during fall open enrollment are stuck with that plan for 2021, whether they like it or not. But that's not the case with Medicare Advantage. If you're dissatisfied with your current plan, you now have the option to drop it and switch over to another Advantage plan, or drop Medicare Advantage altogether and sign up for original Medicare. If you go the latter route, you'll need to sign up for a Part D drug plan as well (whereas Advantage plans are all-encompassing and include coverage for prescriptions).
Why might you choose to ditch your Advantage plan? Getting different coverage could make sense if you're not happy with your choice of providers or pharmacies, or if certain expenses, like the medications you take, are costing you more than anticipated. Also, if you're suddenly expecting to do a lot of travel this year, or spend a fair amount of time out of state, you could very well have trouble finding providers covered by your plan.
Now one thing you should know is that you're only allowed to make one change during Medicare Advantage's open enrollment period. You can't flip-flop between plans, or, say, try out a different plan every few weeks until you find the perfect fit. But if you're notably unhappy with your existing plan, it could pay to make one switch so you're not stuck with that coverage for the rest of the year.
If you're going to move to another Advantage plan, research it carefully. Read up on its costs, the benefits it provides, and the coverage it offers for your specific medications. Switching plans could be a smart decision that saves you money on healthcare and spares you a world of stress during this already trying year, so be sure to get it right.