If you or a loved one receives Medicare coverage, you know how complicated and confusing enrollment periods can be. Enrollment periods are only confusing because the term “Open Enrollment Period” is used correctly and incorrectly to describe times when a plan change is possible
Reinstating “Open Enrollment Period”
The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period was discontinued in 2010. In 2019, the OEP will make a return.
From 2011-2018 Medicare beneficiaries were given only the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP), during this time beneficiaries could disenroll from their Medicare Advantage plan and switch only to Original Medicare. Now all that is changing.
The Medicare OEP will begin on January 1st and end on March 31st. During this time Medicare beneficiaries can disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and enroll into another Medicare Advantage plan. You also have the option of switching back to Original Medicare, with or without Part D coverage.
It’s important for beneficiaries to know that they won’t be able to switch Part D prescription drug plans. If you are currently enrolled in a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan you will need to change your policy during the Annual Enrollment Period from October 15 through December 7.
Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period
New terminology needs to be set up to make things easier for Medicare beneficiaries. It doesn’t need to be complicated, and it should be simplified.
The Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period is for Medicare beneficiaries that are new to Medicare Part B. This period lasts 6 months and begins on the first day of the month that you turn 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B.
So, if you turn 65 on April 8 and don’t join Medicare until May 20, your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment will start on June 1, which is the first day of the month in which you are both 65 and Enrolled in Medicare Part B.
Incorrectly Called “Open Enrollment Period”
The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) happens every year from October 15 through December 7, this enrollment period is commonly called the Open Enrollment Period. It’s incorrect to refer to the AEP as the OEP, but people do.
When a Medicare beneficiary turns 65, they become eligible for the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), this gives beneficiaries 7 months to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. IEP is commonly mistaken for an Open Enrollment Period. It’s clear that they are confusing the IEP with the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period, while they are similar, they aren’t the same.
Other Coverage Changes in Medicare 2019
April of 2018, Medicare recipients will start to receive new Medicare ID cards that no longer have a Social Security number displayed on them. This is to help prevent fraud and identity theft among seniors. As required by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) all beneficiaries will have a new Medicare ID card by April 2019. The new cards will display a random ID number and you can shred the old card.
Then the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA 2018) will help close the donut hole one for brand-name drugs. This means that beneficiaries will only pay 25% of the cost of brand-name drugs. The cost of closing the donut hole for brand-name prescriptions is being shifted to the drug manufactures instead of insurance companies or beneficiaries.
So many good things are happening in 2019, it only makes sense that there is some less than desirable news. A new premium bracket for the highest-income Part B and Part D enrollees with go into effect. Under the BBA 2018 enrollees with an income of $500,000 or more ($750,000 for married couples) will pay a higher premium for Part B and Part D coverage.
Annually by September 30th, Medicare Advantage recipients will receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from their existing insurance carrier for their Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription drug plan providers.
CMS shares plan changes for the following year in October, several months before the new year. Medicare.gov is an awesome resource for Medicare beneficiaries, you can use it to compare plans, look up information and learn more about Medicare.