Even though Medicare Open Enrollment ended in December, the annual Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period is actually going on right now. (January 1 until March 31, 2020). This is an opportunity for those who are currently enrolled in Medicare Advantage to change plans. You might question the need, seeing as we just went through the Open Enrollment Period (October 15-December). There are two reasons to participate. 

1. Perhaps you are not sure that you found the best plan. 

The 2019 Open Enrollment Period was fraught with issues related to the new Medicare Plan Finder

The tool was changing almost every day, with updated navigation and results. There were inconsistencies in the information. If that left you feeling uneasy, now is the time to try again and find the best plan. 

2. Or, maybe you didn’t participate in Open Enrollment, which means your Medicare Advantage plan renewed automatically on January 1. 

That may not be the best result for you. 2020 ushered in more choices, including a wider range of zero-premium plans and those with lower out-of-pocket maximum limits. There were also significant changes in prescription drug formularies and costs. 

What you need to know

During the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, you can

  • Switch to another Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage, known as a MA-PD plan.
  • Switch to a Medicare Advantage plan without prescription drug coverage.
  • Drop the Advantage plan and return to Part A and Part B automatically with the option to enroll in a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan. 

Those who choose to drop (disenroll from) Medicare Advantage will probably want to consider a Medigap policy (Medicare supplement insurance). Without this coverage, they would face unlimited out-of-pocket costs, like 20% of any outpatient service, such as chemotherapy or doctors’ visits. However, in all but four states (NY, CT, MA, and ME), beneficiaries may be subject to medical underwriting. That’s because disenrolling from a Medicare Advantage plan during this open enrollment period does not reinstate the guaranteed issue right to get a Medicare supplement. Those with pre-existing medical conditions may not be able to get a Medicare supplement or, if they do, they’ll likely pay higher premiums. 

How you proceed depends on what you decide to do. 

  • If you’re going to switch to a new Medicare Advantage plan, simply contact your chosen plan and complete the enrollment process. You’ll be disenrolled automatically from your current plan and the new plan will take effect the first day of the next month. 
  • If you want to disenroll from Medicare Advantage and return to Original Medicare, call Medicare ((800) 633-4227). After that, enroll in a Part D drug plan. If a supplement is on your list, it’s a good idea to start the process before dropping the Advantage plan, just in case your application is denied. If you can’t get a supplement or it’s too costly, consider another Medicare Advantage plan or prepare to pay unlimited medical bills.

Here’s what you cannot do during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period:

  • Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. 
  • Enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan 
  • Change to a different Part D drug plan.

Also know that this open enrollment period does not apply to those with Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) or other types of plans, such as Medicare cost plans.

Those with Medicare Advantage plans have a second chance to find the best coverage. But, take action before March 31 or you’ll be stuck until next year.