Thursday, January 19, 2012

Medicare Choices for 2012 After Annual Enrollment

Congress is constantly changing programs funded with our tax dollars and Medicare is no exception. Last year the significant annual enrollment dates for Medicare recipients were changed to October 15th through December 7th. During that time, your government allowed you to change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another; join Original Medicare plan and a Part D plan for the first time; or, choose a Medicare Supplement Plan and a Part D plan. All of the changes were effective on January 1st.

Now that the Annual Enrollment dates are history, your health plan choices are limited, but not eliminated. From January 1st to February 14th, your government allows you to drop your Medicare Advantage Plan, if you are dissatisfied with it, and return to Original Medicare and choose a Part D plan or join a Five Star Medicare Advantage Plan if you have one in your area. Five Star Medicare Advantage plans are few and far between, but if you do have one in your area, you have until November 30, 2012 to join one.

Keep in mind that if you dis-enroll from your Medicare Advantage plan after January 1st and you are beyond your six month window, you may have to meet the medical underwriting requirements of your chosen Medicare Supplement company. The Medicare Supplement policies help pay some of the health care costs that Medicare doesn't cover. You have a six month Open Enrollment Period which starts the first month you're 65 and enrolled in Part B. You have a guaranteed right, during this block of time, to buy any Medicare Supplement policy available in your state regardless of your health condition. However, once this period begins, it can't be delayed or replaced.

If you are turning 65 and aging into Medicare, you have a seven-month (three-months before your birthday month, your birthday month, and three months after your birthday month) to enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B without leaving yourself vulnerable to a penalty. If you are disabled, you can join Medicare three months before or three months after your 25th Month of disability.

Although January 1st has passed, you still have some options, but you need to consider them very carefully with your health condition being front and center. If you are beyond the six month Open Enrollment Period and have significant health problems, it may be better to have a minimally acceptable health plan then no health plan at all. Under these conditions, you should stay in your current plan until the next Annual Enrollment Period begins. However, if you have a Five Star Plan in your area, go for it.

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