Pick Your 2021 Medicare Plan
It’s hard to believe, but a new year is right around the corner! That’s right. It may seem like summer just ended, but the fact is, the time has come to start planning for 2021. If you are thinking about enrolling in a Medicare plan or want to change your existing Medicare plan, there are some important dates that you must be aware of:
These dates are especially important for individuals who want to switch coverage plans for 2021. For instance, the Annual Enrollment Period is when you may want to consider switching from the government’s basic Original Medicare Parts A, B, and D (if you have it) to a more comprehensive private Medicare plan. Private Medicare plans such as Medicare Advantage (Part C) often offer additional coverage at a lower cost, while private plans known as Medigap, or Medicare Supplemental Insurance, provide coverage during “gaps” in standard Medicare Parts A and B.
If you are considering switching Medicare plans for 2021, we encourage you to speak to an insurance expert during this year’s Annual Enrollment Period. One of the insurance experts at Sungate Insurance Agency can help you understand: (1) the differences between the government’s Original Medicare plan and a private Medicare Advantage plan, and (2) the differences between the many private Medicare plans currently available on the market today. Moreover, because we work with a variety of insurance companies, we can do the work of shopping around for you. By comparing all the different coverages available today, we can help ensure that you get the best plan to meet the needs of both your health and your wallet!
Getting started with Medicare
The Annual Enrollment Period from October 15 to December 7 is intended for individuals who are already enrolled in Medicare but need to make a change. If you need to enroll in Medicare for the first time, you need to know your enrollment window, or Initial Enrollment Period. Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is a 7-month window that starts 3 months before your 65th birthday, includes the month of your birthday, and ends 3 months after your 65th birthday. It is important to note that if you do not enroll in Medicare during this IEP, you may find yourself subject to financial penalties and late fees (unless you have coverage provided by an employer, in which case you can delay—without penalty—enrollment until 8 months after your existing coverage expires.)
If you want to sign up for basic Part A and Part B coverage through Original Medicare during your IEP, you can either sign up online or contact the Social Security administration. At this point, Social Security will review your records to confirm whether or not you qualify for Medicare. If you are already collecting Social Security benefits during your Initial Enrollment Period, you may already be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B (if you signed up for Part B when you first selected your retirement benefits). However, this is still a good time to confirm your health care benefits and add Part D for prescription drug coverage if necessary.
How do I choose the right Medicare plan?
As you approach your 65th birthday, it’s important to begin thinking about the type of health coverage you want and need, and to begin researching the variety of available plans. This may also be the right time to contact an insurance agent if you are interested in a private Medicare Advantage (also called Medicare Part C) plan or a Medigap plan to supplement your standard Original Medicare benefits. An insurance agent—like the insurance experts at Sungate Insurance Agency—cannot confirm your Medicare benefits or enroll you in Medicare Parts A, B, and D; for that, you will need to contact Social Security. However, an insurance agent can help you understand what a basic Medicare plan Parts A, B, and D will cover—and what gaps in coverage you might face, as well as help you compare private insurance plans.
Sixty-five may not feel old and it certainly doesn’t have to be old! With the right health care, many Americans today continue to be active and vigorous well past the age of Medicare enrollment! Yet staying healthy means ensuring that you have health coverage when you need it, so don’t delay: talk to a Sungate Insurance Agent today about the right Medicare plan for you.
How to change Medicare plans
Once you’re enrolled in Medicare, you’ll have various opportunities to change certain aspects of your coverage. Here’s an overview:
- During the annual open enrollment period (October 15 – December 7), you can make a variety of changes, none of which involve medical underwriting. (Prior to 2021, people with end-stage renal disease were not able to switch to Medicare Advantage during the open enrollment period, but that’s no longer the case as of 2021.):
- Switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare or vice versa.
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.
- Switch from one Part D prescription plan to another. It’s highly recommended that all beneficiaries use Medicare’s plan finder tool each year to compare the available Part D plans, as opposed to simply letting an existing drug plan auto-renew.
- Join a Medicare Part D plan. (Late-enrollment penalty might apply.)
- Drop your Part D coverage altogether. (Re-enrolling in a later year will include a late-enrollment penalty if you’re not maintaining other creditable drug coverage.)
- During the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period (January 1 – March 31), Americans who are already enrolled in Medicare Advantage can:
- Switch to Original Medicare (and enroll in a Part D plan; access to Medigap might require medical underwriting, depending on the circumstances.)
- Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
- Only one plan change is allowed during this window (unlike the fall enrollment period, when a person can change their mind multiple times).
- During the five-star enrollment period (December 8 – November 30), people who live in an area with a five-star Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan can switch to that plan if they choose to do so.
- During the first year a person is enrolled in Medicare Advantage, they can switch to (or back to) Original Medicare and a Part D plan. And with some exceptions, they also have guaranteed-issue access to a Medigap plan.
- Any time during the year, a person enrolled in Original Medicare can apply for a different Medigap plan. But if it’s not during the person’s one-time Medigap enrollment window, the insurer will likely use medical underwriting to determine whether to issue the policy and at what price.
Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period for 2021 runs from October 15, 2020 through December 7, 2020 for all Medicare plans starting on January 1, 2021.
Let us help you with your Medicare Plan!
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