Open Enrollment for Medicare and Marketplace Plans
It’s that time of year again – open enrollment! During this time, it is important to review your coverage options and make sure you’re enrolled in the health insurance plan that works best for your health care and prescription drug needs. Each year plans make changes to benefits and costs, and new plans become available. Even if you like your current plan, it may not be the best plan for you in 2019. After the open enrollment period closes, you can only enroll if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to a life event, such as losing coverage, moving, getting married, or having a baby.
Here’s what you need to know about open enrollment for Medicare and Marketplace plans.
The annual open enrollment period for Medicare Part D (the Medicare prescription drug benefit) and Medicare Advantage plans is October 15 through December 7, 2018 for coverage beginning January 1, 2019.
During the Medicare open enrollment period, you can:
• enroll in a Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) plan;
• change from Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) to a Medicare Advantage Plan;
• change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare;
• switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another;
• switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan that does offer drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage (and vice versa);
• switch to another Part D plan; and/or
• drop your Part D plan.
Visit Medicare.gov to learn more. For help, call the toll-free number at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) (TTY number: 1-877-486-2048).
For coverage beginning January 1, 2019, you must enroll in a Marketplace plan between November 1 and December 15, 2018.
The Health Insurance Marketplace is for people who do not currently have insurance through their employer, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or another source of qualifying coverage. If you had a Marketplace plan in 2018, you must renew, change, or update your plan for 2019 during the regular open enrollment period. If you do not log in and update your application by the deadline, you may be automatically enrolled in a 2019 plan. However, it’s strongly encouraged to compare coverage options so that you are enrolled in a plan that provides comprehensive and affordable coverage.
This year, you may see cheaper health plans available outside of the Marketplace including short-term plans, which can be renewed for up to three years. Short-term plans can be cheaper than Marketplace plans but they tend to be less comprehensive (since they are not required to provide essential health benefits or preventive care) and can deny people with pre-existing conditions like epilepsy coverage—or charge you more. Therefore, it’s strongly encouraged to choose a Marketplace plan—as they must cover the 10 Essential Health Benefits, preventive services, and people with pre-existing conditions at no additional cost. When enrolling, you can see if you qualify for a tax credit to make coverage more affordable.
You can apply for coverage online, by phone, with in-person help, through an agent or broker, or with a paper application. Visit HealthCare.gov to enroll and learn more. You can always call the federal government’s toll free 24-hour Marketplace Call Center hotline at 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325) for help with navigating this process. Please note that the healthcare.gov website is scheduled to be down every Sunday during open enrollment from 12 a.m. until 12 p.m. except on December 9, due to maintenance, so consumers should plan to enroll outside of those windows.