Once a year, people who are already on Medicare have an opportunity to make changes in how they receive their benefits. Those on Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) can sign up for Part D coverage or move to a Medicare Advantage plan. They can also change from one Part D prescription drug plan to a different one. Those who already have a Medicare Advantage plan they can switch to a different plan.

The dates for open enrollment this year are October 15 to December 7.

There are many reasons why someone might want to change plans. Personal circumstances—such as change in health status or drugs needed—or changes in what’s offered in the plans from year to year are some reasons people switch.

Of course, you don’t have to change if you don’t want to.  But it is important to make sure you are getting the most out of your Medicare by knowing all your options. You’ll want to find out if another plan might be better for you.

The steps to take are simple:

  • Find the Medicare plans available in the area.
  • Compare the costs, benefits and quality of each plan.
  • Choose the plan that’s best for you.

Not all plans are available in all parts of the country. Medicare Plan Finder http://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan shows which health plan choices are available by zip code. The tool also allows comparison of benefits, doctors and drugs and the related costs.

Whether you are new to Medicare or deciding whether to change plans during Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period, more commonly called open enrollment, you should gather information from a variety of sources.

Important note: Medicare is NOT part of the Health Insurance Marketplace, so you don’t need to do anything. If you have Medicare, you are considered covered.

The Marketplace won’t affect your Medicare choices, and your benefits won’t be changing as a consequence of the new healthcare law/Affordable Care Act. No matter how you get Medicare, whether through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan, you’ll still have the same benefits and security you have now. You won’t have to make any changes.

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