You may have seen the news that 2018 is the final year for most Medicare Cost Plans. But then again, maybe you didn’t. Although over 535,000 people will be impacted by this change, that’s less than 1 percent of Medicare’s 58.5 million enrollees (as per 2017 figures, the most recent available). However, if you’re one of those affected, you’re probably wondering: What happens when my Medicare Cost Plan ends?
Who Is Affected by This Change?
This change only affects current Cost Plan enrollees. As of 2018, Medicare only offered Cost Plans in 12 states, plus Washington, D.C. Around three-quarters of all Cost Plan participants are in Minnesota.
The other states affected by this change:
- New York
- Washington, D.C.
If you have a Cost Plan in one of these areas, click the link in your state for more information.
What You Need to Do
You don’t need to do anything right now. All Cost Plans remain in effect through December 31, 2018. You will, however, need to choose a new Medicare plan during Open Enrollment.
If you haven’t already, you will receive a letter from Medicare informing you of the change. These letters are scheduled to begin arriving late summer 2018. If you aren’t sure whether you have a Cost Plan, call the plan number on the back of your membership card.
What Are Your Options?
Since these plans remain in effect through the end of the year, your options closely match those of every other Medicare beneficiary. Namely, researching plan options when Medicare releases 2019 plan and pricing information on October 1 and choosing a new plan during the Open Enrollment Period that runs from October 15 through December 7.
In addition, Medicare is offering a Special Enrollment Period specifically for Medicare Cost Plan beneficiaries who are losing their current coverage. And, you get an additional window to add a Medigap plan without undergoing the usual health screening and medical underwriting.
Many of the insurers currently offering Cost Plans are adding Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. Some have already done so, as this change has been planned for at least a few years. Some people who are losing their Cost Plan will be automatically enrolled in the MA plan their current insurance company offers. You may choose to opt out of this plan during Open Enrollment.
Important Dates to Remember
There are a number of important dates coming up in the next few months. Some of these apply to all Medicare beneficiaries but some are specific to those whose Cost Plan is scheduled to end.
October 1, 2018
Medicare’s 2019 plan and pricing information becomes available on October 1. This is when you can begin comparing your options, including Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D Prescription Drugs, and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plans.
October 15 – December 7, 2018
Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment Period, often referred to as the annual election period or annual enrollment. During Open Enrollment, you can:
- Switch from Original Medicare (Parts A and B) to a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan
- Switch from an MA plan to Original Medicare
- If you have or are switching back to Original Medicare, you can join, switch, or drop a Part D drug plan
- If you have an MA plan, you can choose a new one
Coverage for changes made during Open Enrollment begins on January 1, 2019.
November 2, 2018 – March 4, 2019
This is a special Medigap enrollment period specifically for people losing their Cost Plan. If you enroll in a Medigap plan during this time, you do not have to undergo health screening or medical underwriting.
You can only enroll in Medigap if you have Original Medicare. If you do not choose to enroll in a Medigap plan during this time but want one of these policies later, you face medical underwriting. You may be denied a policy or charged a higher rate due to health issues.
December 8, 2018 – February 28, 2019
Medicare created this Special Enrollment Period for Cost Plan beneficiaries to enroll in a new Advantage or Drug plan.
January 1 – March 31, 2019
This is the General Enrollment Period available to all Medicare beneficiaries. You may sign up for Original Medicare during this time. Please note that if you sign up for Part A during General Enrollment, you must also enroll in Part B. Coverage begins July 1, 2019.
Compare Your Medicare Plan Options
If you look at it a certain way, it’s a good thing when Medicare makes a change like this, because it forces beneficiaries to review their options. Over the course of our lives, our healthcare needs change. The plan that suited you when you first chose it may no longer be your best option.
Medicare Advantage plans must offer all of the same benefits as Medicare Part B. But, they may also offer additional services – and most do to justify additional premiums. In addition, Medicare Advantage plans have yearly out-of-pocket maximums, something Original Medicare does not have.
If you’re ready to learn more about your Medicare plan options, call us toll-free at 855-350-8101 to speak to a licensed agent.
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