Here's what you need to know about Medicare open enrollment 2021

·3 min read

Medicare’s annual open enrollment for 2022 is underway, and both new enrollees and veteran seniors should carefully consider their options — even though most do not.

Seven in 10 seniors on Medicare said that they didn’t compare their plan options during the most recent open enrollment season, according to a survey from KKF. Nearly half haven’t visited the Medicare website for more information and more than half have never called the Medicare helpline.

But it’s crucial to check out your options because plans can change from year to year. The annual open enrollment period runs from October 15 to December 7, but there's a special enrollment period in late January to March in case you need to make changes.

Here’s what to know.

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Your options

Original Medicare: This is traditionally what people think of when talking about Medicare. Original Medicare is the government-run program that includes Part A for hospital insurance and Part B for medical insurance. Typically you can go to any provider that accepts Medicare and you don’t usually need a referral.

Medicare Part D: Original Medicare doesn’t come with prescription drug coverage, so you may need to purchase Part D to cover medications.

Medicare Advantage: These plans are insured by private insurers, but are Medicare approved. They typically come with their own drug coverage plans, and there are many options available.

Why you might want to switch

If you’re a first-time enrollee, you want to consider your overall needs — budget, medical providers, and medications you’re taking — before making a choice, said Gregg Ratkovic, president of Medicare for eHealth, an online platform that compares Medicare Advantage plans.

If this isn’t your first open enrollment, you still may need to consider changes if your needs have shifted, Ratkovic said. For instance, you may want to check out other options if your budget has considerably tightened over the last year. You may be more sensitive to increases in premiums or cost-sharing.

If you received a recent diagnosis that will require you to see a specialist more often in the next year, you will want to see if your particular specialist is in-network or takes original Medicare if that’s what you choose, Ratkovic said.

Last, check on your prescription coverage, he said.

“If there has been a prescription that changed tiers with a higher cost-sharing, they may want to determine what the best alternative might be,” he said. “If you want to stay on that medication, they may want to look at other options in the marketplace.”

But if nothing has changed with your current medications, financial situation, or medical providers, then “there’s no reason to hurry and change your plan if you’re getting the care you need,” he said. But still go through your plan’s features, even if it’s the same one.

“You want to see what’s changed from the current year,” he said. “You’ll likely see improvements.”

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Janna is an editor for Yahoo Money and Cashay. Follow her on Twitter @JannaHerron.