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Today is the first day of Medicare open enrollment, as you probably already know if you’re over age 65. By this time, you’ve probably seen dozens of advertisements from the various Medicare plans vying for your business, and if you’re a Medicare Advantage member, you should have already received your Annual Notice of Change.

If you’re on Traditional Medicare—Part A and Part B—and you’re satisfied with your coverage, you don’t need to do anything during open enrollment. Your Medicare coverage will automatically renew on January 1, 2019. You will probably see a negligible increase in your yearly premium and deductible, but otherwise your coverage will stay the same.

If you have a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, though, you need to pay attention this time of year. Even if you’ve been generally satisfied with your coverage until now, your plan may change for the coming year. Plus, CMS (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) has announced some changes to Medicare Advantage and Part D for 2019.

To read more about Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage, check out our posts on the subject on our other blog: Original Medicare vs Medicare Advantage: Part One and Part Two.

Changes to Look For in Your Medicare Plans

Your Medicare Advantage or Part D Prescription Drug plan sent you an important notice, called an Annual Notice of Change, in September. If you have not received it yet, call your plan’s customer care line to request a copy.

The notice outlines what changes to expect in your plan next year. This can be premium increases, deductible and co-payment changes, and changes to your physician network, drug formulas, and other important coverage categories.

Medicare guidelines allow Medicare Advantage plans the option to change their costs and benefits every year. They even have the option of discontinuing their contract with CMS.

Carefully review your Annual Notice of Change to ensure your doctors, services, and medications will still be covered in 2019. If you are unhappy with the changes to your coverage, that’s where open enrollment comes in.

During open enrollment, you have the option to switch to a different Medicare Advantage or drug plan, or drop your Advantage plan altogether and revert to Traditional Medicare. Even if your plan isn’t making any major changes this year, you may still want to look at other local options and compare them with your current plan. You might find another plan offers better premiums or coverage than what you currently have, so why not take a look?

You can use Medicare’s convenient online Plan Finder tool to search for New Jersey plans (click HERE), or call 1-800-Medicare for more assistance.

Open enrollment ends December 7.

Late November is often a time for gatherings with family and friends – Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, soon followed by Christmas and the New Year.

Nursing home residents often want to participate in these gatherings but may worry that they will lose Medicare coverage if they leave the facility to do so. Residents and their families have the right to do so, according to the Center for Medicare Advocacy which has issued a new Alert..

According to Medicare law, nursing home residents may leave the facility for holidays without losing their Medicare coverage. However, depending on the length of their absence, beneficiaries may be charged a "bed hold" fee.

Read more.

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