Information Last Updated: 12/12/2022
The Centers for medicare and Medicaid services have rules on when you become eligible for the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period.
To enroll in Medicare you must be a US citizen or permanent resident who has lived in the United States for at least 5 years.
Think of Medicare Advantage Plans (also known as MA plans) as your one-stop-shop for all or your healthcare services and prescription drugs.
Part A + Part B + Part C + Part D
Part A & B together make up what is called Original Medicare. These are the only parts that you will sign up through the social security office or Railroad Retirement Board.
PART A - HOSPITAL INSURANCE
Helps you cover common expenses for things such as hospital stays, hospice, home health care and even skilled nursing facility stays.
PART B - MEDICAL INSURANCE
For outpatient services that are deemed medically necessary including services like doctor office visits, lab testing, diagnostic imaging, preventive care, surgeries, ambulance rides, chemotherapy and radiation, and even extensive dialysis care for people with renal failure.
Originally Called Medicare Part C, a Medicare Advantage plan is a private Health Insurance plan contracted with Medicare. It provides the same basic coverage as Parts A and B, including hospital and doctor's visits, plus supplemental benefits that many people want or need.
Medicare Advantage plans are not free, but some plans have what is called a $0 premium. This means you pay no premium for the plan itself, but you will still pay the Part B premium to Medicare and you pay deductibles, copays, and coinsurance as you use your benefits.
When you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, Medicare pays the Advantage plan insurance company a monthly fee to take on all of your medical risk. That is the reason why some plans can offer a $0 premium - they are already getting paid by Medicare on your behalf.
Many Medicare Advantage plans offer additional benefits at low or no cost. These include:
Medicare is divided into 4 parts. Medicare itself has different Parts, not Plans. Let’s review the A, B, C, and Ds of Medicare:
PART A- HOSPITAL INSURANCE
Part A helps you cover common expenses for things such as hospital stays, hospice, home health care and even skilled nursing facility stays.
PART B- MEDICAL INSURANCE
Part B is for outpatient services that are deemed medically necessary including services like doctor office visits, lab testing, diagnostic imaging, preventive care, surgeries, ambulance rides, chemotherapy and radiation, and even extensive dialysis care for people with renal failure.
Part A & B together make up what is called Original Medicare. These are the only parts that you will sign up for through the social security office or Railroad Retirement Board.
PART C- MEDICARE ADVANTAGE PLANS (MA)
Part C plans are private health plans that you can choose instead of Original Medicare. MA covers everything from Parts A and B and often covers other services like dental, vision and wellness programs.
PART D- MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PLAN
Part D is offered by private insurance carriers who are contracted by the federal government. These plans give you lower copayments on your medicines than you would pay without Part D insurance.
In most cases, if you don’t sign up for Part B when you’re first eligible, you’ll have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B.
With Original Medicare you may be subject to deductibles and coinsurance.
You have a lot of choices when it comes to Medicare, which is good, but can also be overwhelming. To help you understand the options that you can choose from, we have broken it down:
Includes Parts A and B:
Part A: Covers hospital visits and prolonged stays
Part B: Covers doctor visits and outpatient care
PRESCRIPTION DRUG COVERAGE
Part D: Helps cover the cost of prescription drugs
Provided through Medicare Part C:
Combines Parts A and B and usually Part D
May Include additional coverage for benefits not covered by Parts A and B
MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT INSURANCE
Helps pay the costs not covered by Parts A and B
Also known as Medigap Policy
Medicare Part D, also known as a prescription drug plan, helps you pay for your doctor prescribed medications.
INSURANCE FOR PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
There are 2 ways to get prescription drug coverage:
Every Medicare Part D plan has a list of drugs it covers, called a formulary. When you research a plan, check the medications you are currently taking against the plan's list. Formularies include both brand name and generic prescription drugs. Your plan will not remove any drugs from it's formulary until the start of the new plan year, unless there's extenuation circumstance, like a recall.
Medicare HMO or PPO networks are the most common type of networks within Medicare Advantage plans.
Medicare HMO networks account for over two thirds of all Medicare Advantage plans on the market. For the most part, HMO networks require treatment be done solely with in-network providers, except in certain circumstances. If you need to see a specialist, you will need to have a referral from your primary care physician.
Medicare PPO networks allow for visits out-of-network, but you will have to pay significantly more out of pocket.
Covers the same benefits as Original Medicare
May offer extra benefits like vision, dental, hearing aids, and fitness programs like SilverSneakers
Available through private insurance companies
Generally, doesn't cover vision or dental care
Helps pay some of those costs that Original Medicare does not cover (copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles)
Medicare's Special Needs Plans (SNP) cater to members who have specific needs that are not already covered in Medicare Parts A and B. This allows members to tailor things like their drug formularies and provider choices to better meet the care they need.
Chronic Illness Special Needs Programs:
Chronic Illness Special Needs Programs (C-SNPs) are specialized health plans designed for members with conditions like:
Institutional Special Needs Program (I-SNP) is for members who live in an institution or facility, or those who require nursing care at home. If qualified, you can enroll year-round.
Dual Eligible Special Needs Program (D-SNP) are those who qualify for both Medicare and Medi-Cal. If qualified, you can enroll year-round.
Oct. 1 - Oct. 14 - Pre-enrollment Period: During this period you can find out which Plans will be offered during the Annual Enrollment Period.
Oct. 15 - Dec. 7 - Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)
You can Enroll in a Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan for the next calendar year.
You can switch Medicare Advantage plans
You can return to original Medicare and choose a Part D plan to go along with it
Jan. 1 - Mar. 31 - Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Only applies to people who already have a Medicare Advantage plan.
Enrollment / plan change options
Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
You can only make one change during this open enrollment period
Jan. 1 - Feb. 14 - Annual Disenrollment Period (ADP) for Medicare Advantage plans and prescription drug plans: During this time, you can disenroll from Medicare Advantage Plans and return to original Medicare. You can then also enroll in a stand-alone prescription drug plan if you choose. But you can’t select another Medicare Advantage plan at this time.
Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP) is a special enrollment period based on certain conditions and exceptions. Some exceptions include moving from your plan’s service area or qualifying for Medicaid coverage. If you are eligible for the special enrollment period you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan outside of the Annual Enrollment Period between Dec. 8 – Oct. 14.