There's a little more than a month left to enroll this year.

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During Medicare open enrollment, you can join, switch or drop a Medicare health plan, prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage Plan. This fall, the  Medicare open enrollment period is from October 15 to December 7, with the coverage you choose beginning on January 1, 2023, as long as the plan receives your request by December 7, 2022.

With numerous Medicare options and plans available, narrowing down which types of Medicare coverage you need can be daunting. But once you understand Medicare coverage plans and how the Medicare open enrollment works, you can make informed Medicare coverage choices.­

Why is Medicare Open Enrollment Important?

If you’re already enrolled in a Medicare plan during Medicare open enrollment, you can make changes to the plan you already have, such as adding Medicare Part B, a Medicare drug plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan. Or you can drop coverage during this period or change to a different Medicare Advantage Plan.

If you turned 65 in 2022 but didn’t sign up for Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period — the three months leading up to your 65th birthday, the birthday month and the three following months — you can still enroll in Medicare during the annual Medicare open enrollment period.

Before you enroll in Medicare or change your coverage, here’s what you need to know about Medicare open enrollment and how to prepare.

Find out: 5 Things to Know About 2020 Health Insurance Open Enrollment

Medicare Has Four Parts

To make the best coverage choices, you must first understand the different parts of Medicare and how each works:

  • Original Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital stays, short-term skilled nursing facility care, hospice care and some home health care. Most people won’t have to pay a premium for Medicare Part A. But Part A has a 2023 deductible of $1,600 for each benefit period.
  • Medicare Part B is medical insurance that covers preventive services and other medically necessary services to diagnose or treat a medical condition. Part B also covers ambulance services, clinical research, mental health services, limited outpatient prescription drugs and eligible Durable Medical Equipment prescribed by a doctor.

For 2023, the standard Medicare Part B monthly premium for individuals with a modified adjusted gross income equal to or less $97,000  is $164.90, with an annual deductible of $226. Once you meet the Part B deductible, you’ must pay coinsurance of 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for services.

  • Part C Medicare Advantage Plans include Medicare parts A, B and often Part D, which is the Medicare drug plan. Premium amounts Medicare Advantage Plans vary by region, and you must purchase the plan from a private insurance company. You can compare Medicare Advantage Plans on the Medicare Plan Finder.
  • Part D prescription drug coverage helps cover the cost of prescription drugs. Medicare Part D is optional and available to anyone enrolled in Medicare. You can purchase a Part D plan through a private insurance company or as part of a Medicare Advantage Plan, which is a “bundled” plan that includes Part A, Part B and usually Part D.

Premiums for Part D vary by region. To shop for a Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D plan, visit the Medicare Plan Finder. Keep in mind that If you don’t sign up for Part D when you’re first eligible, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty added to your Part D premium later.

Find out: How Medicare Part D Can Save You Big Bucks on Medications

You can change Medicare plan(s) only during special enrollment periods

You’re allowed to add or remove Medicare coverage only during certain designated enrollment periods:

  • Your initial enrollment period when you first become eligible for Medicare
  • Medicare Open Enrollment period: October 15 to December 7 each year
  • Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period: January 1 to March 31 each year

For example, if you already have a Medicare Advantage Plan and want to switch to another Medicare Advantage Plan, you can change plans during either the Medicare Open Enrollment in the fall or during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period from January 1 to March 31.

If you want to switch from a current Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare and join a Medicare drug plan, you can also make that change during the Medicare Open Enrollment period in the fall or during the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period from January 1 to March 31.

Find out: Controlling Healthcare Costs That Can Lead to Debt

Medigap Has Its Own Open Enrollment Period

A Medicare supplement (Medigap) plan is a private insurance add-on that people enrolled in Original Medicare use to cover deductibles, copayments and coinsurance costs not paid by Medicare Part A and Part B. You’re allowed to purchase either a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Medigap plan, but not both.

You must have Medicare Part B to be eligible for a Medigap plan, which you purchase from a private insurer. The best time to purchase a Medigap plan is when you first enroll in Medicare, during your six-month Medigap Open Enrollment period.

To shop for a Medigap plan, enter your zip code in the Medicare Plan Finder for prices and coverage.

Find out: 5 Things That Can Cause You to Overpay on Medical Bills – and How to Avoid Them

How to Prepare for Medicare Open Enrollment

Keep an eye out for notices in the mail. If you’re enrolled in a Medicare plan, the plan will send a “Plan Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC) each fall, notifying you of any changes in coverage, cost or service areas.

Also review the 2023 “Medicare & You” handbook online or when you receive it in the mail for information about Medicare coverage. You may be able to find free help with choosing a Medicare plan at your State Health Insurance Assistance Program.

Then compare Medicare Advantage Plans, drug plans or Medigap plans on the Medicare Plan Finder to help you decide on the right one for you.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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