Calling All Procrastinators: Don’t Wait on Your Medicare Coverage

Calling All Procrastinators: Don’t Wait on Your Medicare Coverage

Autumn is a time for many changes around the state of Michigan, from leaves falling to the start of a new school year. If you’re  eligible for Medicare, one of those changes may be learning to navigate the Annual Medicare Enrollment Period, also known as AEP.

Each year the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period takes place from October 15 to December 7. If you’re eligible for Medicare, this is when you can enroll in a new plan or make changes to your existing one.

Unless you’re aging-in to Medicare, which refers to the initial seven-month Medicare enrollment period around your 65th birthday—three months before the month your birthday falls in and three months after—or, you qualify for a Special Election Period, the Annual Enrollment Period is the one time each year when you have the option of changing your plan.

Why should I start planning now?

You have until December 7 to enroll in a plan, but starting to think about your next steps early means you’ll have time to get any questions answered and consider your options without a sense of rush. If you delay signing up and miss the deadline you may not be able to select a new Medicare plan until the next open enrollment period.

I didn’t change my plan during the Annual Enrollment Period, now what

If you already have Medicare coverage, you’ll be automatically re-enrolled in the same Medicare plan for 2018. Generally, you may not make changes at other times unless you meet certain special exceptions, such as if you move out of the plan’s service area, want to join a plan in your area with a five-star rating, or qualify for extra help paying for prescription drug coverage. If you qualify for extra help with your prescription drug costs, you may enroll in, or dis enroll from, a plan at any time. If you lose this extra help during the year, your opportunity to make a change continues for two months after you are notified that you no longer qualify for extra help.

You may also qualify for a special enrollment period if you or your spouse is currently working, you’re covered by a health insurance plan through an employer or union and your coverage is ending. Other qualifying factors also include:

  • You’re getting married
  • You qualify for extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs
  • You’re receiving care in an institution
  • You moved to a new permanent residence

I’m not ok with what coverage I selected, what do I do now?

If you signed up for a Medicare Advantage plan that no longer feels like a fit, you can leave it and switch to Original Medicare between January 1 and February 14.

That said, if you switch to Original Medicare during this period, you only have until February 14 to add drug coverage through a Medicare prescription drug plan.  And if you switch to Original Medicare, you will not be able to switch to Medicare Advantage or switch drug plans until the enrollment period opens again on October 15th unless there are certain qualifying factors that allow you to change earlier.

Where do I start?

A good starting point for questions and answers is to contact the team at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. You can request our free guide here or speak with a representative directly by calling 1-855-339-9231; TTY users call 711 from 8 AM to 9 PM seven days a week October 1 through February 14, as well as weekdays during the same hours, February 15 to September 30.

Photo credit: Kate Ter Haar

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