Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Ends March 31

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Contributor, Benzinga
March 15, 2022

Millions of Medicare Advantage enrollees have until March 31st to make changes to their coverage. For those who are unhappy with their coverage that began with the new year, the often-overlooked Medicare enrollment period is about to end.

During this special time, individuals with existing Medicare Advantage (MA) plans can correct any mistakes made when choosing their 2022 MA plan.

Who Still Has the Opportunity to Switch?

Some 29 million Americans are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. These plans are increasingly popular because they can include added benefits for dental, hearing and vision coverage.  Many today also provide prescription drug benefits as part of the plan coverage.

The opportunity to switch during the current Medicare Open Enrollment Period only applies to Medicare Advantage enrollees.  Those with stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan coverage (Part D) or Medigap plans are not eligible to make changes.

From now through March 31st, you can switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan with or without drug coverage. Or, you can go back to Original Medicare and, if needed, sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

When Does New Coverage Begin?

If you switch from your current Medicare Advantage plan your new coverage starts on the first day of the month after your new plan gets your request for coverage. The same is true if you go back to Original Medicare (Plans A and B) coverage.

Did You Make Any of These Mistakes?

There are several reasons to take the time to consider switching now that the new year of coverage has started. According to consumer feedback provided to the American Association for Medicare Supplement Insurance, many complaints involve overlooked changes made to covered medical providers or network. Providers once in your network are no longer ‘in-network’.

The second reason is a change in the cost of prescription medications. Once a year, drug plans have the chance to change formulary levels and important things like co-pays. With the new year started, many individuals are surprised to find their prescription drugs have been moved to a more expensive tier.

Finally, MA plans have been increasingly offering perks. These can include dental, vision and hearing benefits. They can also include free gym memberships and a growing list of other benefits. However, these added benefits can vary significantly, especially dental coverage. The amount of free coverage can be minimal or quite extensive making comparison shopping all the more worthwhile.

Finding the Best Medicare Advantage Plan Coverage

You can only make one change to your health coverage during this time so experts advise you choose wisely. The typical individual has between 20 and 40 different Medicare Advantage plans available. Finding the best Medicare Advantage plan coverage can be a rather daunting task, especially when facing a deadline to act.

One of the options worth considering is finding a local Medicare Advantage agent which can be done using the online directory hosted by the American Association for Medicare Supplement Insurance. Access to the directory is free and completely private.  Listed agents will identify whether they offer Medicare Advantage, Medigap or both forms of coverage.

Don’t wait until the last minute to act. You won’t leave yourself enough time. But, don’t despair, Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period begins again on October 7th. At that time, you can start the comparison process all over to find yourself the best coverage for the best cost.