You might be shopping for a new Medicare plan because your current plan is discontinuing its contract with Medicare. You may be looking to compare your current satisfactory plan with other options in your area, just to make sure you have the best available coverage for your needs. Perhaps you have a Medicare Advantage plan without prescription drug coverage and you would like to find one that includes those benefits. This is the right time of the year for you to be contemplating your choices.
After October 1, you will have access to updated plan information from Medicare Advantage plans, and you can review the 2012 Medicare & You Handbook updated and released by the federal government. This information will prepare you for any decisions you make during the Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP) from October 15 through December 7.
If you have Original Medicare, or would like to revert back to Original Medicare after having Medicare Advantage plan coverage, you can do so during the AEP. You can also choose to add a Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) to your Original Medicare coverage during this time. After the Annual Election Period, you have another opportunity to return to Original Medicare. The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period from January 1 through February 14 allows you to drop your MA plan and return to Original Medicare. If you return to Original Medicare during this time, you may also add a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP).
If you currently receive your Medicare coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan, but would like to switch to a different plan for lower costs or the additional benefits offered, the Annual Election Period is your time to do this.
If your Medicare Advantage plan is discontinuing its participation is the Medicare program for 2012, you will automatically be enrolled in Original Medicare, unless you join another Medicare Advantage Plan. If you choose to stay in Original Medicare, you will have the right to purchase certain Medicare Supplement (Medigap) policies. If you need prescription drug coverage, you can also join a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan.
If you want to continue to receive your Medicare coverage through a Medicare Advantage Plan, you need to join a new plan for the coming year. You will have a special election period from October 1 until January 31 to enroll in a new plan. You should join a new Medicare Advantage Plan by December 31 in order to make sure you have coverage as of January 1. If you do not join a Medicare Advantage Plan by December 31, you will continue to have Medicare coverage through Original Medicare only, as of January 1. You may still enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan between January 1 and January 31 however your effective date with the new plan will be February 1.
If you are in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan that is no longer participating in Medicare in 2012, you have the right to join another Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan with drug coverage. If you do not join a new plan, you will not have Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D).