The Basic Guide: Medicare Open Enrollment 2021

Enrollment for Medicare coverage for 2021 closed on December 8. The fall Medigap open enrollment period is over, but you may still change your Medicare coverage.

When is Medicare open enrollment for new enrollees?

Open enrollment comes and goes between October 15 and December 7 each year, commonly known as the Medicare election period. A Medicare plan enrollee would be able to make changes to their coverage plans or purchase a new policy during this annual window if they so desired.

When Medicare open enrollment occurs, you can:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage (as long as you live within the service area of Medicare Advantage, and are enrolled in both Medicare Part A and B).
  • Possibly purchase Original Medicare and possibly a Medicare Supplemental plan.
  • Alternate between Medicare Advantage plans.
  • Change Medicare prescription drug coverage from one plan to another.
  • If you have not enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan ever since you became eligible for Medicare, do so now. There may be a late enrollment penalty if you have not maintained creditable coverage.

The Medicare Special Needs Plan was available only to patients with end-stage renal disease in their area prior to 2021, when they were not eligible for Medicare Advantage. However, the 21st Century Cures Act changed this situation beginning in 2021. CMS expects an estimated 40,000 Medicare Advantage enrollees with ESRD for 2021. People living in states where Medigap coverage is not guaranteed for people under 65 with ESRD may find this particularly helpful.

Residents of areas impacted by natural disasters can enroll at a special rate.

People from areas where FEMA declares an emergency or major disaster that may hinder them from completing their Medicare enrollment during the normal enrollment period of November 7 through December 7 each year may have the option of applying for extended enrollment windows.

In these cases, the special enrollment period insures people whose insurance began prior to August 1 and continues to 45 days after the disaster/emergency incident occurs. When you enroll during the special enrollment period, your enrollment becomes effective on January 1.

Thus, if you feel you are eligible for the emergency/disaster SEP and enroll before December 31, your coverage will start on January 1, 2021 (meaning that: only if you had been eligible on Dec. 7 and didn’t get hit by a disaster).

The program continues through the end of 2020 for some SEPs. The SEP will end on December 31 if the incident started in August. However, if the incident began in September, your SEP will become applicable until the end of March, if it started in October, your SEP will be extended through the end of February, and if it started in November, it will extend through the end of March. If you enroll for any insurance, your coverage will take effect on the first of the month following the enrollment date.

Medigap enrollment Advantage:

Medicare Advantage plans include Part A and Part B coverage for those with Original Medicare. Members in these areas must also possess Original Medicare coverage. Some rural areas don’t have Medicare Advantage plans available, but most parts of the country do.)

An Advantage plan bundles your Medicare A and B coverage and, in some instances, Part D coverage. In addition to paying a premium for Medicare Advantage (which might be zero, depending on your plan) you’ll still have to pay a premium for Part B from the government.

In the fall, when Medicare open enrollment period takes place, you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.

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