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Medicare Enrollment Period Begins October 15

What is the Medicare open enrollment period?

The Medicare open enrollment period is the time during which people with Medicare can make new choices and pick plans that work best for them. Each year, Medicare plans typically change what they cost and cover. In addition, your health-care needs may have changed over the past year. The open enrollment period is your opportunity to switch Medicare health and prescription drug plans to better suit your needs.

When does the open enrollment period start?

The Medicare open enrollment period begins on October 15 and runs through December 7. Any changes made during open enrollment are effective as of January 1, 2015.

During the open enrollment period, you can:

  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D) Plan
  • Switch from one Part D plan to another Part D plan
  • Drop your Part D coverage altogether
  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare
  • Change from one Medicare Advantage Plan to a different Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers prescription drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn't offer prescription drug coverage
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn't offer prescription drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that does offer prescription drug coverage

What should you do?

Now is a good time to review your current Medicare plan. As part of the evaluation, you may want to consider several factors. For instance, are you satisfied with the coverage and level of care you're receiving with your current plan? Are your premium costs or out-of-pocket expenses too high? Has your health changed, or do you anticipate needing medical care or treatment?

Open enrollment period is the time to determine whether your current plan will cover your treatment and what your potential out-of-pocket costs may be. If your current plan doesn't meet your health-care needs or fit within your budget, you can switch to a plan that may work better for you.

What's new in 2015?

Most Part D plans have a temporary limit on what a particular plan will cover for prescription drugs. In 2015, this gap in coverage (also called the "donut hole") begins after you and your drug plan have spent $2,960 on covered drugs. It ends after you have spent $4,700 out-of-pocket, after which catastrophic coverage begins. However, part of the Affordable Care Act gradually closes this gap by reducing your out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions purchased in the coverage gap. In 2015, you'll pay 45% of the cost for brand-name drugs in the coverage gap and 65% of the cost for generic drugs in the coverage gap. Each succeeding year, out-of-pocket prescription drug costs in the coverage gap continue to decrease until 2020, when you'll pay 25% for covered brand-name and generic drugs in the gap.

Where can you get more information?

Determining what coverage you have now and comparing it to other Medicare plans can be confusing and complicated. Pay attention to notices you receive from Medicare and from your plan, and take advantage of help available by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or by visiting the Medicare website, www.medicare.gov. Your financial professional can also help you find the information you need to make decisions about Medicare.

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Kenneth S. Rakes has 25 years of experience in public accounting and is a graduate of John Carroll University. Ken provides tax planning and preparation services for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, and trusts. Ken is a Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) providing retirement, estate, investment, insurance, and education planning for individual clients with an emphasis on the tax implications of planning decisions. Ken's other areas of expertise include: Manufacturing, Wholesale, Retail and Service Industries, Non-Profit Organizations and Sub-Chapter "S" Corporations.