Medicare Is A Major Milestone: Open Enrollment Is Oct. 15 Through Dec. 7

Becoming eligible for the Medicare program is a major milestone in your life. The Medicare open enrollment period is upon us, and the pandemic is making evaluating your existing plan or initially signing up for a Medicare plan a challenge. What further complicates things is that these are conversations typically held face-to-face, which makes social distancing difficult. Some professionals are still meeting in person, while others prefer – or are required to have – virtual meetings using technology such as Zoom.

Here’s some basic information to assist you in starting your annual conversation:

Q. When should I join a Medicare advantage plan or Medicare prescription drug plan?

A. The best time to join a Medicare health or drug plan is when you first get Medicare. Signing up when you’re first eligible can help you avoid paying a lifetime Part D late enrollment penalty. If you miss your first chance, generally you have to wait until fall for Medicare’s annual open enrollment period, Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, to join a plan. During this time each year, you can also drop or switch your plan coverage.

Q. What is considered to be creditable prescription drug coverage?

A. It’s drug coverage that’s expected to pay, on average, at least as much as Medicare’s standard prescription drug coverage. It could be drug coverage you get from a current or former employer or union, or from TRICARE, the Indian Health Service or the Department of Veterans Affairs. If you don’t have creditable coverage, you may want to join a Medicare drug plan now to avoid the Part D late enrollment penalty, even if you don’t use a lot of prescription drugs. People who maintain creditable prescription drug coverage or who get extra help to pay for their prescriptions don’t have to pay this penalty.

Q. Is my plan right for me?

A. You should utilize the Medicare Plan Finder to compare coverage options and shop for plans. You may be able to find plans that cost less, cover your drugs, let you go to the doctors and pharmacies you want and offer extra benefits like vision, hearing, dental, prescription drugs or extended coverage when you travel. You can also get an estimate of your out-of-pocket costs and quality and customer service ratings from current plan members.

Q. How do I compare the quality of Medicare health and drug plans?

A. The Medicare Plan Finder at features a rating system for Medicare health and drug plans.


Here’s How To Get The Most Out Of The Medicare Program

Remember these times to get the most out of Medicare and avoid late enrollment penalties:

Initial Medicare enrollment period. Most people get Medicare Part A – hospital insurance – and Part B – medical insurance – during this period. It starts three months before you turn 65 and ends three months after you turn 65. If you’re not already collecting Social Security benefits before your initial enrollment period starts, you’ll need to sign up for Medicare online or contact Social Security. To get the most from your Medicare and avoid the Part B late enrollment penalty, complete your Medicare enrollment application during your initial enrollment period. This lifetime penalty gets added to your monthly Part B premium, and, the longer you wait to sign up, the more expensive it gets. Find out if you should get Part B based on your specific situation.

General Medicare enrollment period. If you miss your initial enrollment period, you can sign up during Medicare’s general enrollment period, Jan. 1 through March 31. Your coverage will start July 1.

Special enrollment period. Once your initial enrollment period ends, you may have the chance to sign up for Medicare during a special enrollment period. You can sign up for Part A or Part B during a special enrollment period if you have special circumstances.

Source: Courtesy of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and WebMD