Open Enrollment Mistakes to Avoid
Medicare open enrollment can be a complex time of the year. Beneficiaries have to balance understanding their current coverage as well as identifying potential new plans and options. That confusion can lead to mistakes, which can cost you in a big way. Here are a few common pitfalls that beneficiaries should know to avoid.
- Written by Christian Simmons
Christian Simmons is a writer for RetireGuide and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®). He covers Medicare and important retirement topics. Christian is a former winner of a Florida Society of News Editors journalism contest and has written professionally since 2016.Read More
- Edited BySavannah Hanson
Senior Financial Editor
Savannah Hanson is a professional writer and content editor with over 16 years of professional experience across multiple industries. She has ghostwritten for entrepreneurs and industry leaders and been published in mediums such as The Huffington Post, Southern Living and Interior Appeal Magazine.Read More
- Reviewed ByAflak Chowdhury
Aflak Chowdhury is a Medicare expert and independent insurance broker specializing in group health insurance. He has worked for major providers including Humana and Principal Financial Group and today works mainly in the small group market.Read More
- Published: August 19, 2022
- Updated: April 18, 2023
- 4 min read time
- This page features 2 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
Common Open Enrollment Mistakes
There are numerous mistakes that beneficiaries can make during open enrollment. Finding and enrolling in a plan can be a convoluted process.
It also doesn’t help that Medicare and health care itself are complex topics with many facets that everyday Americans can be confused by.
There are several common mistakes that stand out above the rest. Going into open enrollment informed of them and aware of how to avoid them can make a big difference in ensuring that you get the coverage that you need.
Make Sure You are Eligible for Open Enrollment
One common mistake among beneficiaries is not understanding whether or not they are actually eligible for open enrollment.
During this period, you can switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage or vice versa while also making changes to your Part D coverage.
Simply put, open enrollment is for current Medicare beneficiaries. You cannot use open enrollment to enroll in Medicare for the first time.
That must be done during your initial enrollment or general enrollment periods.
Be Aware that Medicare Plans Change
Medicare is constantly changing. From costs and coverage to plans available where you live, there will be changes from year-to-year.
One common mistake that beneficiaries make is not realizing this and therefore not reviewing their options.
Your current plan may have been the best choice for you last year. But your options could look very different this year. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average Medicare beneficiary had access to twice as many Medicare Advantage plans in 2022 as they did five years earlier.
Your options have likely changed, and it’s important to review any new offerings.
Not Understanding the Costs Associated with Your Plan
One major mistake that beneficiaries can make when selecting a plan is not fully understanding the costs associated with it.
You could be placing yourself in a bad situation if the only cost you compare when reviewing plans is the monthly premium. This rarely tells the full story and does not actually capture what you will end up paying if you do need health care.
Premiums are important, but different plans handle deductibles, copayments and coinsurance costs in different ways.
You may select a certain plan because of its very low premiums. But it may turn out that in exchange for those low premiums, you could end up having to pay a huge part of the bill for actual medical services that you need.
Reviewing all costs associated with a plan — not just the premium — can help you to avoid this mistake.
Not Understanding How Changes in Your Situation Affect the Coverage You Need
If your medical or financial circumstances have changed in the last year, then your plan may need to change as well.
Just as plans are not static, your health care needs likely are not as well. If you have developed a new health condition in the last year, you should review your options to determine if there is a plan available that better covers your new health care needs.
The same is true if your financial situation has changed. If you have less money available to spend on health care than you did last year, sticking with the same plan could be risky.
Beneficiaries should try to not make the mistake of failing to adapt their coverage to their personal situation.
Trying to Match Your Plan with Your Spouse’s
A common misunderstanding of Medicare is some beneficiaries’ believe that their Medicare coverage is tied to their spouse’s.
While this is often true of employer health plans, you do not need to have the same Medicare coverage as your spouse.
This can become especially problematic for beneficiaries when it comes to Part D prescription drug plans.
You and your spouse likely need access to different medications. Getting on the same plan does not make sense since different Part D plans cover different medications.
Your spouse’s health needs should not influence which plan you sign up for.
Not Taking Your Time
Open enrollment lasts from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. There is no reason for you to rush to a decision and enroll in a plan without truly weighing all of your options.
You have plenty of time to find the right plan for you. If you don’t take your time and do your research, you could end up missing out on a better option that you never even considered.
2 Cited Research Articles
- Kaiser Family Foundation. (2021, November 2). Medicare Advantage 2022 Spotlight: First Look. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/medicare-advantage-2022-spotlight-first-look/
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). Medicare Open Enrollment. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Reach-Out/Find-tools-to-help-you-help-others/Medicare-Open-Enrollment
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