Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (Jan. – March): Gone in 2011by Denise Early on Apr. 19, 2010, under Health
Medicare Advantage members will have only one chance to change their Advantage plan later this year, between November 15th and December 31st. After January 1, they will be locked into their Advantage plan for 2011 unless they decide to dis-enroll from their Advantage plan and go back to Medicare. From January 1st to February 15th, seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans will be allowed to sign up for a stand-alone Part D plan if they drop out of their Advantage plan.
For the past several years (and in 2010) people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans were able to switch from one plan to another during the months of January, February, and March. This “Open Enrollment Period” will not be available in 2011. I had previously reported that changes would not take place until 2012, but I have read that changes will start sooner.
In November this year, it will be very important for seniors to review the materials they receive from their Medicare Advantage plan, in case their plan makes some big changes. If they want to shop around for another Advantage plan, they will only have November 15th to December 31st to do so. If they discover in January that their plan no longer works for them, they will be unable to change to another Advantage plan. Their only recourse will be to dis-enroll from their Advantage plan and go back to Medicare (and pick up a Part D plan).
This past January, February and March, quite a few seniors realized their Health Net plan had introduced a $36 monthly premium. Several thousand people did not realize this until the company sent them a coupon book at the very end of December. Everyone had received the notice at the end of October, but many people had not read the mail from their plan. Health Net sent out a letter in January warning people that they would be dropped if they did not pay the monthly premium and shocked folks into action. These people had the opportunity during the first three months of the year to shop around and change their plan. They will not have the same opportunity next year.
I also heard from a number of people who did not realize until the new year that their Advantage plan was no longer covering one of their drugs. They had missed the notification that had been sent to them at the end of October (as required by Medicare) and when they went to refill their prescription in January or February, the pharmacy informed them that their plan did not cover the drug. These seniors were able to shop around in February or March 2010. But in 2011, they will be stuck with their Advantage plan.
Things are going to be interesting later this year and early next year.
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