For Mark Roberts’ Use: On October 15, Medicare began their annual open enrollment period. Each year the program makes various changes in covered services, from provider options to which procedures and medications it will cover. In response to changing needs of patients, Medicare provides this period for current plan participants to reexamine their coverage options, and make changes where necessary.

So what does this mean for you? If you currently receive Medicare, you should first examine very carefully any documents Medicare sends to you regarding changes in coverage. In some cases the changes are very minor and will not affect you. In other cases you may find that vital services have been deleted from your program.

Second, you should also reexamine your personal situation. Even if your coverage isn’t changing, your needs might be different than they were one year ago. Has your doctor mentioned changing or adding any medications? Have you developed any new health problems, or have you been told that you’re at high risk for certain diseases or conditions? Do you anticipate any surgeries or other procedures coming up within the next year? All of these things may signal a need to reexamine your Medicare coverage.

Another thing to consider is your financial situation. Calculate your out-of-pocket costs for the past year, estimate your possible expenses for the coming year, and see if changing between Medicare programs could benefit you financially. From October 15 through December 7, you can make the following changes to your Medicare plan:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to an Medicare Advantage plan, or change from Advantage back to Original
  • Make a shift from one Medicare Advantage plan to another that better suits your coverage needs
  • Add a Medicare Part D Prescription plan, if you didn’t already have one
  • Switch from one Part D Prescription plan to another one
  • Drop Part D Prescription coverage