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How Do I Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan?


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Summary: You may be able to enroll in Medicare Advantage twice a year or more. Enrollment periods include the Fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period also known as the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP), your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), and a Special Enrollment Period(SEP). You can enroll through a broker like eHealth, or directly through a health insurance company.

Medicare Advantage plans can be attractive for their low monthly premiums, added benefits, and out-of-pocket maximum. However, you only can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during certain enrollment periods. Because you can’t change your plan at any time, you want to be sure you have the right plan for you.

How to enroll in Medicare Advantage step 1: know the enrollment periods.

You generally can only enroll in Medicare Advantage during an enrollment period. You may experience up to four enrollment periods in a year.

  1. Your first opportunity for Medicare Advantage enrollment is during your initial enrollment period. This is a 7-month period that begins 3 months before you turn 65, includes your birthday month, and extends for 3 months after you turn 65. If you qualify for Medicare through disability, you also have a 7-month initial enrollment period. This period begins 3 months before your 25th month of getting disability benefits, includes, your 25th month of getting disability benefits, and extends for three months after your 25th month of getting disability benefits.
  2. Another period to enroll in Medicare Advantage is the Fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period which lasts from October 15 to December 7 every year. During this period you can:
  • Switch from Original Medicare and enrollment in Medicare Advantage
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  1. Another period for Medicare enrollment is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period which is January 1 to March 31 each year.

During this period you can:

  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Disenroll from Medicare Advantage and return to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B).

However, if you have Original Medicare, you cannot enroll in Medicare Advantage.

  1. A fourth period you may be able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan is during a special enrollment period (SEP). To qualify for a SEP you generally must change where you live, lose your current coverage, or have a plan that changes its contract with Medicare. For example, you might move to an address that isn’t in the plan’s service area or maybe Medicare terminates your plan’s contract. You generally will have a chance to leave your old Medicare Advantage plan and enroll in a new Medicare Advantage plan. The dates and duration of this special enrollment period depends on your circumstances.

How to enroll in Medicare Advantage step 2: know what benefits you want

Medicare Advantage plans can offer a variety of innovative benefits including:

  • Prescription drug coverage
  • Routine dental
  • Routine hearing
  • Meal delivery
  • Transportation to the grocery store
  • Transportation to the doctor office
  • Carpet cleaning if you have asthma

Keep in mind that these benefits are not standardized. As you browse Medicare Advantage plans, consider which benefits you want, as some Medicare Advantage plans may have more benefits than others.

How to enroll in Medicare Advantage step 3: know the plan costs

Medicare Advantage plan costs include premiums, deductibles, coinsurance and copayments. You also should consider the out of pocket maximum. Compare these costs as you making a decision about Medicare Advantage enrollment.

Premiums: An amount you pay monthly to have coverage, whether or not use any medical services. Some Medicare Advantage plans have premiums as low as $0.

Deductibles: An amount you pay before insurance begins to pay. Some Medicare Advantage plans don’t have deductibles.

Coinsurance: An amount, usually a percentage, you pay when you receive a treatment or medication. For example, you may pay 15% for a prescription drug.

Copayments: an amount, usually a flat dollar amount, you pay when you receive a service. For example, you might pay a $15 copayment to see a primary care physician.

Out of pocket maximum: This is the limit that you pay out pocket before all your qualified costs are covered.

Costs vary among Medicare Advantage plans, so you could save money by comparing plans.

How to enroll in Medicare Advantage step 4: compare plans

eHealth makes it easy to compare Medicare Advantage plans from different health insurance companies side by side. To begin comparing Medicare Advantage plans in your area, just enter your zip code on this page. You also will be able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan through eHealth.

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