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Lane Keeter, CPA

Partner: Tax Consulting, Estate Planning, and Heber Springs Managing Partner

Medicare Open Enrollment Season is Here!

This time of year brings many types of "seasons". There is, of course, autumn and its falling leaves. There is football season, deer season, and the holiday season. In some years (election years), they call it "the crazy season".

And then there is the much anticipated Medicare open enrollment season!

Ok, maybe calling it "much anticipated" is a bit of a stretch (ya think?). But nonetheless, for people on Medicare, it is an important and critical time of decision.

The season runs each year between October 15 and December 7. During this period of time, Medicare offers open enrollment in which beneficiaries can make changes to their Medicare coverage. Several coverage options are available from which to choose. These are:

• Part A hospital insurance and Part B medical insurance, referred to as Original Medicare;

• Part C or Medicare Advantage, which replaces Original Medicare and often includes prescription drug coverage and other services not covered by Original Medicare;

• Part D prescription drug coverage, which can be selected with Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans that do not include drug coverage.

Original Medicare is administered directly by the federal government and includes standardized premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance payments. Medicare Advantage plans and Part D drug plans are administered by private companies approved by Medicare. Premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance payments vary by plan.

During the open enrollment period, Medicare recipients can take the following actions:

• Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or vice versa;

• Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another Medicare Advantage plan;

• Join a Medicare prescription drug plan, switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to another, or drop prescription drug coverage altogether.

Any of the above changes made become effective on the following January 1.

Medicare Advantage plan participants who want to change back to Original Medicare can also do so from January 1 to February 14, with Original Medicare coverage beginning the first day of the following month. Those who make this change have until February 14 to join a Medicare prescription drug plan, with coverage beginning the first day of the month after the plan receives the enrollment form.

An additional opportunity, from December 8 to November 30 of the following year, allows Medicare beneficiaries to switch to a top-rated "5-star" Medicare Advantage plan or prescription drug plan. Medicare rates these plans every year, and a 5-star rating is considered excellent. These star ratings are useful for comparing plans based on quality and performance.

As you can see, there is much to consider when choosing Medicare coverages. It is a vitally important decision affecting your peace of mind, not to mention your financial well-being. It is not to be taken lightly nor made without due consideration.

For more information on Medicare enrollment, you can go to

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