If you're a senior, healthcare is probably one of your most substantial expenses. And it's also something you can't afford to skimp on or settle for. If you enrolled in a Medicare Part D drug plan during fall's open enrollment, you may be stuck with that plan for the rest of the year, even if it's not working for you. But if you're on a Medicare Advantage plan that you're unhappy with, there's better news.
Medicare Advantage has its own open enrollment period that runs from Jan. 1 through March 31. Here are a few reasons you may want to think about switching your coverage this year during that time.
1. Your plan has changed, and not in a good way
You may have assumed that keeping your old Advantage plan is a good idea. But if that plan changed, you may be regretting your decision.
It could be that the specific care you need is now more expensive this year than it was previously. If so, you might consider moving to a different plan. (To be clear, all Advantage plans are required to provide a notice of change informing enrollees of what to expect from year to year -- they can't just surprise enrollees with higher costs on the spot. But it could be the case that you missed a key point that's left you with costlier bills to absorb.)
2. You're having trouble finding providers you like
With Medicare Advantage, you're limited to a specific network of healthcare providers. If you're having difficulty finding doctors you trust or want to use, it could pay to see if there's a better plan for you -- perhaps one where you recognize some of the names who are in-network.
3. You can't find a convenient pharmacy
Just as you're limited to specific doctors with Medicare Advantage, your plan will limit you to in-network pharmacies. If you can't find a pharmacy in a convenient location, that's reason enough to look at a different plan.
4. You're now planning to spend time out of state
Original Medicare allows you to receive care pretty much anywhere in the country, but with Medicare Advantage, you're generally limited to local providers. That could prove problematic if, say, you now think you'll be spending a lot of time outside of your home state.
In that situation, it could pay to drop your Advantage plan, only instead of signing up for another one, enroll in original Medicare. Thankfully, that is an option through March 31 should you choose to pursue it.
Make the right call
The right Medicare plan won't just save you money, it also could make it easier to take care of your health and avoid near- and long-term problems. If your Medicare Advantage plan isn't working for you, look at making a switch, whether it involves getting a new Advantage plan or moving over to original Medicare. But be careful -- you can only change your coverage once during Medicare Advantage's open enrollment period, so do some research before making your decision.