People With Medicare
Medicare Question of the Month
Each month, our expert showcases a Medicare question submitted by one of our readers. You may submit a question at any time and get a personal response.
This Month's Question:
I just heard I only have until December 7 to make changes to my Medicare Part D coverage. Last year I had until December 31. Did these dates change this year? What happens if I don't make a change by December 7?
This is the first year for a change in dates.
This year the annual Open Enrollment Period for Medicare's Part D drug benefit and Medicare Advantage health plans starts earlier on October 15 and ends on December 7, 2011. During this time, you can enroll or switch Part D drug plans, or change the way you get your Medicare coverage (from Original Medicare to a private Medicare Advantage health plan, or vice versa).
Before now, the annual opportunity to make changes in coverage ran from November 15 to December 31. These dates were changed and made earlier starting this year to make sure the plans and pharmacies are ready by January 1.
And now, because of the change in dates, you have:
- More time to review your options (closer to 8 weeks rather than 7 weeks), AND
- Reassurance that any changes made by December 7 are processed and ready to go come January 1, when they take effect.
However, this means you must review your options NOW and make any changes by December 7. If not, you may have to remain in your 2011 plan all the way through 2012. And, you likely will have to wait until next Open Enrollment Period (which starts on October 15, 2012) to make any changes to your coverage. And, most importantly, this means you may end up spending more in 2012 if you are not in the plan by December 7, 2011 that best meets your health and financial needs.
Now is the time to be a savvy consumer and select the Part D plan that best works for you. And if you want to join a Medicare Advantage plan, you should shop around and select that plan by December 7.
We hope nobody with Medicare misses the December 7 deadline, but if you do, immediately contact a benefits counselor in your area.
A counselor can help you understand what you might be able to do. A few people may be in a situation where they can make a change in their coverage outside the Open Enrollment Period. But most people will not be able to change, so the time for action is now, by December 7.
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