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What to know about Medicare open enrollment

A senior man is sitting on a couch, looking at a computer tablet.

Oct. 15, 2020—Open enrollment for Medicare starts today and runs through Dec. 7. That makes this a good time to think about whether your current coverage is working for you or whether you might want to make changes.

During open enrollment, you can decide to switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan. If you have an MA plan, you can switch back to Original Medicare. Or you can change to a different MA plan. You also can decide to enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan or switch to a different Part D plan.

Before you begin

It's helpful to first review the various parts of Medicare:

  • Part A covers hospital and hospice care, as well as some skilled nursing services after you leave the hospital.
  • Part B covers outpatient services, such as visits with your doctor and diagnostic tests.
  • Part D helps pay for prescriptions.
  • Part C is Medicare Advantage, which combines Parts A, B and usually D.

Get the information you need

To compare plans, go to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) plan finder website. Here you can review coverage and prices for Original Medicare and MA plans—the site includes a calculator to keep track of costs—as well as get information about Part D plans.

You'll want to make sure your doctors are in your plan's network. You'll also want to check whether the drugs you take are covered in your MA or Part D plan. Prescription drugs that aren't covered or aren't "preferred" medications could end up costing you more. Copays aren't the same across all plans either, so be sure to review those costs too.

Another way to compare plans is through the star rating system. One star is poor performance; five stars is excellent. According to CMS, almost half of MA plans that offer prescription drug coverage will have a rating of four stars or higher in 2021.

If you like your current plan, make sure to carefully review its Annual Notice of Change. Your plan may be changing. But if your current plan isn't undergoing significant changes and will still work well for you, you don't have to do anything during this enrollment period.

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