A “do-over” chance for Medicare open enrollment

By Steve Vernon

/ MoneyWatch

Tips for driving down medical bills

You probably thought you were finished thinking about Medicare when the 2018 open enrollment period ended on Dec. 7. Not so fast: Medicare has another limited open enrollment that runs from Jan. 1 through March 31, 2019, for Medicare Advantage plans. Here's a brief review to help you understand your options.

You face a fundamental decision regarding how you receive medical treatment under Medicare:

You do have the opportunity to change your mind if you elected an MA plan during the 2018 open enrollment period or if you simply allowed your 2018 MA plan to remain effective for 2019. During the 2019 Medicare Advantage open enrollment period, you can:

Your election becomes effective the month after you make the switch.

Why would you want to move from one MA plan to another or to original Medicare? Here are a few possible reasons:

"If you're new to an MA plan this year, try it out before March 31," recommended Diane Omdahl, president of Sixty-Five Incorporated, an independent Medicare consultancy. That way, you can test whether you like it and still have time to change if you don't.

Note that if you opt out of your MA plan and switch to original Medicare, in most cases you won't be able to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan until the next Medicare open enrollment period that begins on Oct. 15, 2019. Only Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York require continuous open enrollment for Medicare Supplement plans. If you live in one of these states, you may be able to immediately enroll.

Note also, if you must wait until the fall 2019 Medicare open enrollment period to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan, insurance companies in most states are allowed to require that you satisfy medical underwriting requirements to obtain coverage. So if you have a preexisting condition, you may not be able to elect a Medicare Supplement plan.

Here are a few things you can't do during 2019 Medicare Advantage open enrollment:

There's a lot to keep track of with Medicare and all its various parts and features. If you're confused, which is understandable, it's a good idea to find a professional who can help you. It's part of your "retirement job" to spend time learning about your options. Smart choices can save you thousands of dollars and help keep you healthy.

First published on January 11, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

Steve Vernon

View all articles by Steve Vernon on CBS MoneyWatch»
Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Retirement Game-Changers: Strategies for a Healthy, Financially Secure and Fulfilling Long Life and Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck.

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A “do-over” chance for Medicare open enrollment

You have until March 31 to change your choice of Medicare Advantage plan or switch to original Medicare

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