December 31st: Not Really the Medicare Deadlineby Denise Early on Dec. 20, 2009, under Health
If you can’t make up your mind about changing your Medicare Advantage plan or staying put, December 31st is not your deadline. You still have January – March (Open Enrollment) to make one change.
The December 31st deadline applies only to people with a stand-alone prescription drug plan, or those who are signing up for a Part D plan for the first time – alone or with a Medicare Advantage plan. But the 40% or so Tucsonans enrolled in Medicare Advantage still have a few months to make a change.
It seems like lots of insurance agents (and insurance company advertising) have left seniors with the misconception that they must “ACT NOW!” or they’ll be locked into their Advantage plan until 2011. Don’t let anybody push you to make a decision – you still have plenty of time.
Submitting paperwork this week or next will likely mean you won’t get your new Advantage plan card by January 1st. And if you have prescriptions that need refills in early January, you might find your old plan coverage cancelled but your new plan not yet in the system. I tell everyone to refill prescriptions before the end of the month, if at all possible.
The best time to submit an application to change your Medicare Advantage plan is early in the month. If your paperwork goes in before the tenth of the month, everything will be processed and you’ll have your card – and your info will be in the system for the first of February.
I have a feeling there will be many folks who did not look at the materials sent by their Medicare Advantage company at the end of October. These materials provided information on changes to their Advantage plan for 2010. When they realize their plan has changed substantially (and they’re being asked to pay a premium), lots of folks will start shopping for a new plan in January, February, or March.
The key piece of information is that people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans can still make one change during the Open Enrollment Period of January through March.