Senior Life Matters

Question: I chose my Health Insurance and Part D plan for 2020, but now I am not sure I made the right choice. Can I change to a different plan?

Question: I chose my Health Insurance and Part D plan for 2020, but now I am not sure I made the right choice. Can I change to a different plan?

Answer: I know this sounds very similar to last week’s question and it is, but the answer is different. Last week I talked about an exciting NEW Special Enrollment Period. Today I want to touch on two Annual Enrollment Periods that are happening right now.

The first is the General Enrollment Period (GEP). This GEP runs from January 1 to March 31 each year and is an opportunity for those individuals who did NOT sign up for Medicare when they turned 65 or when they left work, and therefore must sign up now. These individuals can use this GEP to sign up for Medicare Part A or Part B or both but will likely have a penalty for their lack of coverage. The individuals who sign up during this GEP will not actually get the insurance coverage until July 1 of this year.

This GEP is not commonly used, but is available to those individuals who missed their Initial Enrollment Period or one of the many Special Enrollment Period (SEP) opportunities to sign up for Medicare.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will send individuals a letter annually reminding them of this GEP if an individual only has Medicare A or Medicare B. Just because you get this reminder letter from Medicare does NOT mean that you are in this situation. They send the letter to anyone who has only Medicare Part A or only Medicare Part B. Some individuals don’t sign up for Medicare because they have insurance from their own employer or their spouse’s employer insurance. That is usually an acceptable and appropriate decision.

This GEP is for those individuals who are not working, and/or do not have insurance through their job, OR for individuals whose spouse is not actively going to work and providing their health insurance.

If you are retired, and have retiree health insurance, you need Medicare Part A & Part B.

This GEP requires paperwork be completed by you and your previous employer. These forms are taken to Social Security Administration (SSA) and turned in to begin Medicare.

The second Enrollment Period that is happening right now is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. This MA-OEP runs from January 1 to March 31 each year. The big difference with this enrollment period is that it allows anyone with a Medicare Advantage Plan to change to any other product they choose. When you use this enrollment period, your new coverage will begin on the 1st of the following month. That means if you switch plans in January, your new coverage begins February 1; if you switch in February your new coverage begins March 1; if you switch plans in March your new coverage begins April 1.

Using this SEP to switch your insurance coverage does not usually involve any penalties or delays in when your new insurance product(s) begin. You can switch from a Medicare Advantage to a different Medicare Advantage. You can switch from a Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare and then add a Medicare Supplement Plan and a Part D plan.

This could be a useful opportunity to make a different choice for 2020 for those who chose not to change plans during the October to December Annual Enrollment Period.

On February 13th at 3pm Senior Life Matters will be holding an educational program to review all of the different Enrollment Periods related to Medicare and how individuals can use those enrollment periods to alter, fix, adjust, or correct their insurance products. If you are interested in attending our program, please call to make a reservation at 716-720-8199 or visit our website at and register online.

The rules regarding Medicare are tricky and sometimes difficult to interpret. It is our hope that we can help people avoid mistakes, or correct mistakes that have happened.

To contact Janell Sluga, GCMC with questions or concerns, please call 716-720-9797 or e-mail her at