The open enrollment period for Medicare runs from October 15 through December 7 on an annual basis, however, this is not the case for individuals interested in Medigap (Medicare Supplement) coverage. The open enrollment period for a Medigap policy is the six month period that starts the first day of the month that you turn 65 or older and enrolled in Part B. After this period, your ability to buy a Medigap policy may be limited and it may be more costly. Each state handles things differently, but there are additional open enrollment periods in some cases.
Remember, Medicare Advantage plans may offer additional benefits that are not offered in Original Medicare coverage. Beneficiaries who need prescription drug coverage may prefer the convenience of having all of their Medicare coverage included under a single plan, instead of enrolling in a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan for Medicare Part D coverage. However, every person’s situation is different, so it’s a good idea to review your specific health needs, and compare Medicare Advantage plans in your area to find a plan option that best suits your needs.

Medicare has four basic parts: A, B, C, and D. Taken together, Parts A (hospital care), B (doctors, medical procedures, equipment), and D (prescription drugs) provide basic coverage for Americans 65 and older. What's relevant for this article is what these parts don't cover, such as deductibles, co-pays, and other medical expenses that could wipe out your savings should you become seriously ill. That's where Part C comes in. Also known as Medicare Advantage, it's one of two ways to protect against the potentially high cost of an accident or illness. The other option is Medicare Supplement Insurance, also called Medigap coverage. Here's a look at the two options.

Original "fee-for-service" Medicare Parts A and B have a standard benefit package that covers medically necessary care as described in the sections above that members can receive from nearly any hospital or doctor in the country (if that doctor or hospital accepts Medicare). Original Medicare beneficiaries who choose to enroll in a Part C Medicare Advantage or other Part C health plan instead give up none of their rights as an Original Medicare beneficiary, receive the same standard benefits—as a minimum—as provided in Original Medicare, and get an annual out of pocket (OOP) upper spending limit not included in Original Medicare. However they must typically use only a select network of providers except in emergencies or for urgent care while travelling, typically restricted to the area surrounding their legal residence (which can vary from tens to over 100 miles depending on county). Most Part C plans are traditional health maintenance organizations (HMOs) that require the patient to have a primary care physician, though others are preferred provider organizations (which typically means the provider restrictions are not as confining as with an HMO). Others are hybrids of HMO and PPO called HMO-POS (for point of service) and a few public Part C health plans are actually fee for service hybrids.


Part A Late Enrollment Penalty If you are not eligible for premium-free Part A, and you don't buy a premium-based Part A when you're first eligible, your monthly premium may go up 10%. You must pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you could have had Part A, but didn't sign-up. For example, if you were eligible for Part A for 2 years but didn't sign-up, you must pay the higher premium for 4 years. Usually, you don't have to pay a penalty if you meet certain conditions that allow you to sign up for Part A during a Special Enrollment Period.
^ Frakt, Austin (December 13, 2011). "Premium support proposal and critique: Objection 1, risk selection". The Incidental Economist. Retrieved October 20, 2013. [...] The concern is that these public health plans will find ways to attract relatively healthier and cheaper-to-cover beneficiaries (the "good" risks), leaving the sicker and more costly ones (the "bad" risks) in fee for service Medicare. Attracting good risks is known as "favorable selection" and attracting "bad" ones is "adverse selection." [...]
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