Open Enrollment: Who, What, Why and How

Dear Susan:

I will be helping my parents through the Medicare Open Enrollment period this year. They opted for a Medicare replacement plan last year, and it hasn’t worked out very well for them.

This year we are determined to spend more time researching options and finding a plan that gives them more freedom to choose the providers they want to see. Since I’m not yet eligible for Medicare myself, however, this process is one I’m just not familiar with.

Do you have any advice you can share for what I should know and how I get started? It seems a little confusing to me!

Diane

Making the Most of Medicare Open Enrollment

Dear Diane:

You are right. It can be confusing the first time you work your way through the Medicare Open Enrollment process! Seniors are bombarded with information by mail and even on television commercials.

Here’s a quick overview of what you should know to help your parents make the most of Medicare Open Enrollment:

  • Medicare Open Enrollment allows older adults enrolled in Medicare to make changes to their plan once each year. Open Enrollment takes place every year from October 15th through December 7th.
  • Any changes that you make during Medicare Open Enrollment this year will go into effect January 1st of 2017.
  • During the Open Enrollment period, you can sign up for original Medicare (parts A and B), Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage), or a Medicare Advantage Plan (part C).
  • It sounds like your parents may have been enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan in lieu of traditional Medicare. These types of plans are offered by private insurance companies through an HMO or PPO.
  • Each year Medicare plans, providers and options change. With some research, you and your parents might be able to find a more desirable plan with a wider range of providers.
  • Medicare plans for the upcoming year typically become available on Medicare.gov in October. To review the options open to your parents, use the Plan Finder Tool on the Medicare website.
  • There are also Medicare specialists available to help you through this process. You can search Medicare.gov to find one near you. It’s important to call for an appointment early, however. Don’t wait until the deadline is looming to try to book time.

Good luck, Diane! I hope you and your parents can find a plan that meets their needs and budget.

Sincerely,

Susan Criswell
Corporate Controller