Medicare Open Enrollment Ends… Medicare Special Enrollment Periods Begin

December 7, 2011 in Medicare

I bet you thought the barrage of Medicare enrollment literature and advertising would come to an end today, December 7, with the end of Medicare Parts C and D open enrollment. (If you’re Medicare age, it’s worse than any political campaign ever thought of being.) Think again.

Tomorrow, December 8, two special enrollment periods begin. 

The first is a new feature of Medicare this year. It lets you upgrade to a five-star Part C Medicare Advantage or Part D standalone Prescription Drug Plan from a lower rated C or D plan any time between now and next October when the 2012 open enrollment period begins. But one-time only.  And it doesn’t mean much in Massachusetts unless you live out in parts of the Pioneer Valley or the Berkshires.  Health New England’s Part C plan is the only five-star rated C or D plan in Massachusetts (and I think in all New England). There are less than two dozen such plans in the entire country.

The second and more meaningful special enrollment period begins tomorrow December 8, 2011 and ends about two months from now, February 14, 2012 (but don’t wait unti the last moment… again). It’s really a disenrollment period and applies only to people who chose a Part C plan during the last six weeks or who chose not to change the Part C plan they have been on during 2011. 

Got buyer’s remorse or do you wish you had spent some more time thinking about your current Part C plan during the just ending open enrollment? Good news: You can disenroll from the Part C plan you just chose (or just  implicitly chose by doing nothing) and move back to Original Medicare Parts A and B.  In doing this, you can enroll in a Part D plan and — at least in Massachusetts with its continuous Medigap enrollment rule — join a Medigap program. But you can’t move from one Part C plan to another or from Original Medicare to a Part C plan.

Like I said in August, it’s not simple.  Details about these two special enrollment periods are in the 2012 Medicare and You booklet (pages 79 and 78 respectively). Medicare beneficiaries on Medicaid and Extra Help and who live in nursing homes also have special enrollment/disenrollment privileges.

1 response to Medicare Open Enrollment Ends… Medicare Special Enrollment Periods Begin

  1. Like I say, it’s never simple.

    Two new pieces of information on special enrollment since this morning when I posted above:
    1. I was incorrect above about the special enrollment period dates for disenrolling from a 2012 Part C Medicare Advantage program. You can think about it and decide to do it starting tomorrow but you cannot actually push the button on medicare.gov to make it happen until January 1, 2012. That means it would not be official until February 1, 2012. As I said above, you have until February 14, 2012 to disenroll. If you decided in February (up until February 14) to disenroll, it would take effect March 1. There’ll be a test tomorrow!
    2. A new special enrollment period was just announced this morning December 7 for 2012 Part C and D plans and only lasts three days (tomorrow December 8, Friday December 9, and Saturday December 10). It applies to anyone that has contacted a local senior center or other similar resource looking for Medicare help prior to or on December 7 (the previously announced cut-off date) and got delayed by the backlog of open-enrollment work. I think the exception even includes contacting a Part C or Part D insurer directly but that’s murky. To be safe, call your local senior center TODAY and say you want a SHINE/SHIP volunteer to help you for open enrollment. One should call you back tomorrow or Friday. Why they don’t simply say “the deadline is extended three days” I don’t know. But it’s never simple.

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