Medicare Open Enrollment time is here again!  If you are currently enrolled in or eligible for a Medicare health plan, it is time to review your coverage and take action.

What is Medicare Open Enrollment?

Medicare Open Enrollment is the annual period in which all Medicare beneficiaries can review their Medicare health plans and make any necessary changes for the coming year.

When is the Medicare Open Enrollment period?

This year, open enrollment for Medicare runs from October 15 through December 7.

What is the difference between Medicare Open Enrollment and the Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment?

The Health Insurance Marketplace, created under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), has an open enrollment period that overlaps with Medicare’s open enrollment period.  See my previous blog for more details on the ACA Open Enrollment.

The Health Insurance Marketplace at is intended for Americans who are uninsured and underinsured.  Those who are eligible for Medicare should sign up with Medicare instead.  See If you already have Medicare and are looking to change your Medicare plan, you might not need to visit  Talk to a healthcare insurance navigator if you have questions.

What can I do during the Medicare Open Enrollment period?

During Open Enrollment, Medicare beneficiaries can do the following:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage.
  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D)
  • Switch from one Medicare drug plan to another Medicare drug plan.
  • Drop Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

Any changes made during this year’s enrollment period will go into effect January 1, 2018.  Most people will have to wait for another year to make changes if they do not do it by December 7, 2017.

How do I know if I need to make changes to my Medicare health plan?

Make sure you review any notices or letters you receive related to your health plan, such as “Evidence of Coverage” (EOC) or “Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC) letters.  Your current plan may have new premiums, deductibles and copay rates next year, making a different Medicare plan better for you.

Also make sure to check the network coverage of your current plan.  Your doctor and hospital may not be covered by your current plan next year.  If you do decide to switch plans, don’t forget to make sure your doctor and hospital are covered in the new one!

If you are covered under your spouse’s plan, check with the plan administrator before dropping Medicare coverage because the plan might require you to have Medicare coverage if you are eligible for it.

How do I make changes to my Medicare health plan?

By this time, as a Medicare beneficiary, you should have already received an “Annual Notice of Change” letter in the mail.  Information on how to make changes will be included.  Visit for more information.

If you have lost or misplaced your information, call 1-800-MEDICARE for assistance.

Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability lawyer.