8 Steps to Picking the Right Medicare Plans During Open Enrollment

Most people fill Medicare’s coverage gaps by buying a Medicare supplement (medigap) plan and a Part D prescription-drug plan, or they get both medical and drug coverage from a private insurer with a Medicare Advantage plan.

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Most people fill Medicare’s coverage gaps by buying a Medicare supplement (medigap) plan and a Part D prescription-drug plan, or they get both medical and drug coverage from a private insurer with a Medicare Advantage plan. You have from October 15 to December 7 each year to pick a Medicare Part D prescription-drug plan or a Medicare Advantage plan for the year ahead. You can switch from one Part D plan to another, or from one Medicare Advantage plan to another. You can also switch into a Medicare Advantage plan. However, if you have Medicare Advantage and want to switch to a medigap plan plus a Part D plan, you may have limited medigap options depending on your health—although you can choose any Part D plan during open enrollment. (For more information about how to choose between Medicare Advantage or medigap and Part D, see How to Fill Medicare Coverage Gaps (opens in new tab)).

The plan that was best for you over the past year may not be the best one next year. That may be because the drugs you take or the doctors you see have changed. Or it may be because the coverage has changed under your plan for next year—your drugs may be moving to a more expensive pricing tier with higher co-payments, or your doctors may be leaving your Medicare Advantage plan’s network. Or new plans may be introduced in your area that are a better match for you. Mutual of Omaha is entering the Part D market in several states, for example, and more insurers are introducing prescription drug plans or Medicare Advantage plans with lower premiums. Because you can change plans every year, you can focus specifically on your drugs and dosages or the type of health care you need now; you can switch again next year if your needs or your options change.

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Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.