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Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period is the time of year when you can make changes to your Medicare coverage. Open Enrollment runs from October 15 through December 7, and any changes you make will take effect on January 1, 2022. This blog covers some important things to do during this upcoming Open Enrollment Period! (Download this handout to supplement the information below.)

First, know the changes you can make during Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period.  

During Medicare’s Open Enrollment, you can make certain changes to your health insurance coverage, including adding, dropping, or changing your Medicare Advantage and Part D coverage. You can make as many changes as you want during this period, but only your last coverage choice will take effect in January. The changes you can make include joining a new Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D prescription drug plan, switching from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan, and switching from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare. Depending on the state in which you live, you may have a right to buy a Medigap policy during this time. Contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to ask about state specific Medigap rights and options. Use our online SHIP Locator or call 877-839-2675 (and say “Medicare” when prompted). 

Before making a decision about your 2022 coverage, consider the Medicare health and drug plan options in your area. You may be able to receive better health or drug coverage at a more affordable price. For example, even if you are satisfied with your current Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, you should check to see if there is another plan in your area that offers health or drug coverage at a better price.  

Use the Medicare Open Enrollment Period as a time to review your current Medicare health and drug coverage. 

You receive a lot of mail before and during Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, so it is important to know which mailings include information about your current coverage. No matter how you receive your Medicare coverage, you should consider your access to health care providers and pharmacies you want to use, your access to benefits and services you need, and the total costs for insurance premiums, deductibles, and cost-sharing amounts.

If you have Original Medicare, visit www.medicare.gov or read the 2022 Medicare & You handbook to learn about Original Medicare benefits for 2022. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan or a stand-alone Part D plan, read your plan’s Annual Notice of Change, or ANOC, and Evidence of Coverage, or EOC. These notices list any changes for your plan in 2022. Pay special attention to any changes in the plan’s costs, the plan’s benefits and coverage rules, and the plan’s formulary. The formulary is the list of drugs your plan covers. Make sure that your drugs will still be covered next year and that your providers and pharmacies are still in the plan’s network. If you are unhappy with any of your plan’s changes, you can change plans.

If you would like assistance understanding your current coverage or any of the Medicare notices you receive during Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, you can contact your SHIP. SHIP counselors provide individualized counseling to help you ensure your coverage for 2022 will meet your needs. Use our online SHIP Locator or call 877-839-2675 (and say “Medicare” when prompted). 

You should also know how to make changes to your Medicare health and drug coverage. 

You can use services provided by the government to make Medicare coverage changes. Call 1-800-MEDICARE to make changes by phone. If you use computers, you can visit www.medicare.gov to compare options and enroll in some plans online. If you want one-on-one help reviewing your options or making changes, contact your SHIP. SHIPs are funded by the government to provide trusted, unbiased Medicare counseling. Use our online SHIP Locator or call 877-839-2675 (and say “Medicare” when prompted). Keep in mind that, depending on your location, SHIP program services may be offered under another state or local name.

You can also contact plans directly to learn about the services they cover or to enroll. Confirm everything that a plan tells you before making a final decision and get everything in writing. Before joining, call your doctors to make sure that they are in the provider network for the plan you want to join.

Finally, protect yourself from marketing violations and enrollment fraud. 

During Medicare’s Open Enrollment, there is a higher risk than usual for fraudulent activity. Medicare has rules about how plans can and cannot communicate with you to market their insurance products. Plans are allowed to send you mail and emails but are not allowed to call or visit you in person without your permission. Beware of anyone who tries to pressure you to join their plan, claims they represent Medicare and are offering free services, or threatens that you will lose your Medicare benefits unless you sign up for a certain plan. Before you enroll in a plan, make sure you understand what the plan covers and whether it covers the drugs you need. Contact a plan directly to learn about the services it covers and get everything in writing. If you feel you may be experiencing Medicare fraud, abuse, or errors, you can contact your Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). SMP representatives can teach you how to spot and protect yourself from potential Medicare fraud. Visit www.smpresource.org or call 877-808-2468 to contact your local SMP.

Still have questions?   

Your SHIP is here for you! You can contact your SHIP for questions about your Medicare coverage and any problems that arise with it. SHIP counselors are government funded to provide trusted, unbiased Medicare counseling at no cost to you. (Depending on your location, SHIP services may be offered another state specific or local name.)   

Use our online SHIP Locator or call 877-839-2675 (and say “Medicare” when prompted).

Supplemental Handout