Medicare Open Enrollment Ends December 7

by Cooper B. Wilhelm

Open Enrollment for Medicare Parts C and D is currently ongoing and lasts until December 7, 2012. Now is the time to see how your current plan will stack up next year compared to others available. You can keep your current plan, but you may want to look around to see how it may be changing, and if other plans may provide you better coverage, convenience, or savings. You’re also free to drop Medicare Parts D and C entirely.

Depending on your provider and physician, new services are also available as of 2013. Medicare participants could be covered for one wellness check-up, cancer screenings, alcohol misuse counseling, cardiovascular disease behavior therapy, depression screening, and obesity screening and counseling.

The Medicare Plan Finder is a good tool for making direct comparisons between plans available in your area. You can simply type your ZIP code into the “General Search,” or use the “Personalized Search” to find plans specifically available to you.

This Open Enrollment does not affect Medicare A and B. You can change your Medicare Part A and/or Part B coverage each year between January 1 and March 31.

Although Special Enrollment periods outside of Open Enrollment may be available to you, if you decide to change your service outside of Open Enrollment, your choices may be limited and you may have to pay penalties or pay more for your plan.

You can switch to a Medicare Advantage Plan with a 5-star rating from December 8, 2012 to November 30, 2013. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch to original Medicare between January 1 and February 14, and will, in that instance, be able to add Medicare Part D coverage until February 14. If your plan decides to stop participating in Medicare, you have until February 28, 2013 to pick a new one. Until you pick a new plan (or if you do not) you may be automatically enrolled in original Medicare.

To learn more, visit the Medicare Web site. A guide to Medicare in 2013 as available here, and a state-by-state information on Medicare Part D is available here, and a tool for comparing Medicare Advantage Plans is available here. This tool can also help you find out how your Medicare Part D plan may be changing in 2013.

UPDATE 11/29/12

Medicare Open Enrollment ends December 7, but if you have been affected by Hurricane Sandy, Medicare is giving you more time. Call (800) 633-42273 ([800] MEDICARE) to request more flexibility in your deadline.

You do not need to prove you were affected by the hurricane, and do not even have to have been directly affected by it to be eligible. According to a letter sent by the Department of Health and Human Services, this deadline extension “applies to all individuals who were affected by Hurricane Sandy, including those individuals who don’t live in the affected area but rely on help making healthcare decisions from friends or family members who live in affected areas.”

According to the AARP, a representative of Medicare has also stated that if the pharmacies in your area that are in your network run out of a medicine you need, you can go to pharmacies outside your network without penalties.

If you decide enroll in a new plan later than December 7, your new coverage begins the first day of the calendar month after you sign up. As with all current Medicare recipients, if you do nothing, you will automatically be re-enrolled in your current plan, as long as your current plan is continuing with Medicare next year.

Last Reviewed November 29, 2012

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Cooper B. Wilhelm is an Editorial Assistant at Arthritis Self-Management

Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.

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