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Medicare Insurance Comparison

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Do I have to sign up for Medicare every year?

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Just the Essentials…

  • You do not need to re-enroll for Medicare each year. Once you’ve enrolled once, you’ll continue to benefit from Original Medicare as long as you continue to pay your premiums and collect Social Security benefits.

  • You may need to renew Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans if you move or if the plan becomes unavailable in your area. You should review your Annual Notice of Change each year to ensure that your plan still meets your needs.

  • If you need to change your Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plan, you can do so during the Annual Enrollment Period (from October 15th – December 7th), or the Open Enrollment Period (from January 1st – March 31st). If you move or your plan suddenly becomes unavailable, you may also be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period.

How does Medicare enrollment work?

With multiple enrollment periods each year, figuring out how to sign up for Medicare can be complicated. You might be wondering: “How often do I have to go through this process? Do I need to apply for Medicare every year? Will I lose my coverage if I don’t?”

The short answer is no. You do not need to renew Medicare coverage each year. Once you apply for Medicare, your plan will be renewed each year with no action required on your part, provided you keep up with your premium payments. However, there are some rare circumstances where a renewal may be necessary.

How do you sign up for Medicare?

Before you need to worry about a renewal, you need to apply for Medicare in the first place! 

Luckily, this is relatively easy: for Original Medicare (Parts A and B), residents of the United States and its territories (excluding Puerto Rico) are automatically enrolled upon becoming eligible, provided they’re receiving Social Security benefits. If you’re not receiving Social Security, you’ll need to sign up manually by contacting the Social Security Administration.

When do I sign up for Medicare?

There are multiple times per year when you may be able to sign up for Medicare. You can sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period: a seven-month span beginning three months before you become eligible (typically upon turning 65) and extending three months afterward. 

If you need to change your plan or have missed your Initial Enrollment Period, you can also sign up during the Annual Enrollment Period from October 15th through December 7th of each calendar year. Those looking to change their Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plans can do so during Open Enrollment from January through March.

What are the circumstances that may require me to renew Medicare coverage?

So long as you pay your monthly premium and continue to collect Social Security, you will never need to renew your Original Medicare plan. Parts A and B are provided by the federal government and are not subject to the changes that may affect private insurers.

Conversely, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D are offered by private insurers and therefore come with the same caveats you’d expect from any insurance plan.

The most common reason for needing to re-enroll in your plan is if your plan becomes unavailable in your area. This is most commonly due to a move but can also occur if a plan changes its service area. An insurance company might also decide to stop offering a specific plan. Finally, the government might stop offering a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plan due to a low star ranking. 

Regardless of the reason, plan members affected by these changes are typically eligible for a Special Enrollment Period, allowing them to sign up for a different plan outside of typical enrollment periods.

Should I still check my Medicare plan each year?

Yes! Your provider will send you an Annual Notice of Change in the mail, covering any changes to cost, benefits, or service areas that may affect you in the coming year. It’s also a perfect opportunity to review your coverage and determine if it still meets your needs. 

The Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage runs from January 1st through March 31st of each calendar year. If you’re dissatisfied with your coverage or are looking for a new provider, now is the time to make a change.

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