Do You Have to Enroll in Medicare Every Year?

Generally, you do not need to renew Medicare coverage each year if you are happy with your coverage and your premiums. Once you sign up for Medicare, you will only be at risk of losing the Part B portion if you fail to pay your premiums.

For Parts C and D, which are usually supplied by an insurance company, there are other aspects to keep in mind that may require an update, which is set out below.

If you are able to continue paying your premiums and your medical needs have not significantly changed, your coverage will usually automatically renew each year without your involvement. However, the benefits of both Part C, aka Medicare Advantage Plans, and Part D Prescription drug coverage can change every year.

In addition, you should check your benefits in case one of the events below occurs.:

  • If Medicare terminates the contract with your plan
  • If your plan opts out of the Medicare program
  • If your plan changes its service area and no longer serves your area
  • If your plan doesn’t renew its Medicare contract for the following year

In this article, we will go into more detail about situations such as these, as well as why it might be wise to review your Medicare arrangements once a year even if you’re currently happy with your arrangements.

Who Is Eligible for Medicare?

First of all, let’s set out exactly who Medicare policies are for, as well as who they are not for.

Original Medicare (Parts A and B) covers inpatient hospital care plus outpatient and physician services for anyone who is aged 65 or over and has been a U.S citizen or legal resident for at least 5 continuous years.

Those aged under 65 but who have certain disabilities can also be eligible. If you have been in receipt of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for 24 months, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare regardless of your age.

Other disabilities that may make you eligible include end-stage renal disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cancer, mental health disorders, or musculoskeletal system and connective tissue disorders.

If you are unsure whether you are eligible for Medicare, you can use the medicare.gov eligibility tool to find out more.

With Medicare, it’s always better to sign up as soon as possible. When you become eligible, an Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) will begin. The initial enrollment period is a 7-month window where you are guaranteed to be exempt from penalty fees for late sign-up and your medical history is not a consideration.

It also pays to be prepared. You don’t have to wait until retirement to sign up. Having to suddenly pay out of pocket for medical care while you wait for the sign-up process to go through can be costly and stressful. Something we all want to avoid!

Do You Have to Enroll in or Renew Medicare Part A Every Year?

Medicare Part A is the hospital coverage portion of Medicare, and it’s free for most people who qualify. If you or your spouse paid your Medicare taxes for at least 40 quarters during your life, your Part A is paid for. 

If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in Part A when you turn 65.

You don’t have to renew or re-enroll in Part A every year.

Do You Have to Enroll in or Renew Medicare Part B Every Year?

Medicare Part B covers medically necessary outpatient and physician services.  

You do not need to renew or re-enroll in Medicare Part B every year. It will continue as long as you continue to pay the premiums.

Part B premiums are usually subtracted each month from the policyholder’s Social Security payments. If you are not yet receiving Social Security benefits you will be billed for coverage. 

Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C) replace your Medicare Part A and B coverage, but you will still need to pay your Part B premium.  Medicare Supplement Plans (or Medigap Policies) pay the deductibles and coinsurance not covered by Original Medicare (Parts A and B).

Do You Have to Enroll in or Renew a Medicare Advantage (Part C) Plan Every Year?

A Medicare Advantage Plan includes all of the benefits present in Medicare Part A and B. Some plans also include things like dental care, vision coverage, prescription drug plans, or gym memberships.

What is covered will depend on the Medicare Advantage Plan you choose, as these plans are private coverage options provided by an insurance company rather than the Federal Government.

Medicare Advantage Plans are liable to changes that will affect your healthcare – these changes will be set out in the Annual Notice of Change as discussed below.

Reviewing the options available to you each year during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) may help you find coverage that is cheaper or more appropriate for your unique situation.

This period runs from October 15th to December 7th each year.

Do You Have to Enroll in or Renew a Medicare Supplement Plan/Medigap Policy Every Year?

A Medicare Supplement Plan or Medigap Policy is an insurance plan that helps cover the costs of things not usually included in Original Medicare coverage (Parts A and B).

This usually includes things like deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, blood, and medical care outside the US.

The benefit of Medicare Supplement Insurance is that your out-of-pocket costs will be lower than with a Medicare Advantage plan.

Many Medicare beneficiaries prefer a Medigap plan because it gives them more flexibility in choosing doctors and hospitals. You are not limited to a network and no insurance company can deny or delay the coverage recommended by your physician.

You don’t have to enroll in or renew your Medicare Supplement plan every year. All Medigap policies will automatically be renewed as long as you continue to pay your premiums. The benefits of these plans never change.

If you wish to change Medicare supplement policies you can do so any day of the year, as often as you see fit.

However, bear in mind that if your Medicare supplement Open Enrollment period has ended (which runs from the first day of Medicare Part B being effective to 6 months (180-days) after this date), then you may have to go through medical underwriting, depending on your state of residence. You could be denied coverage or charged higher premiums based on your previous medical history.

There are many states that have special rules allowing Special Open Enrollment Periods for Medicare supplement plans.  Check with your independent Medicare broker to see if your state is one of them.  .

The Annual election period from October 15 to December 07 does not pertain to medicare supplement plans.

Do You Have to Enroll in or Renew Medicare Part D Every Year?

Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage and is available to everyone with Medicare. It can help reduce the cost of your prescription drugs.

Part D plans work with a network of pharmacies to provide you with local access to prescription drugs at a discount. You pay a monthly premium for your coverage and then pay a copayment or coinsurance for each prescription you fill.

You don’t have to enroll in or renew your Medicare Part D Plan each year, as it will automatically renew if you keep up with your premium payments.

It is still always advisable to review your benefits and the different options available to you in the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which runs from October 15 to December 7 every year.

Premium and benefit changes disclosed in the Annual Notice of Change or changes in your health care requirements may mean that there are lower cost or more appropriate options for your unique situation.

Keep in mind that if you have a low income, you may be able to access extra assistance with premiums and copayments for your Part D drug coverage through the Medicare Extra Help program.

We have a separate website PartDShopper.com designed to help you shop your Part D coverage each year.

The Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)

It is wise to review your options every year. It’s important to read the Annual Notice of Change that your provider will send you in September of each year.

It will lay out any upcoming changes to the cost, coverage, or service area of your current plan. This may cause you to want to update your arrangements or compare new options.

Here are some things to look out for in your ANOC:

  • Changes to premiums, deductibles, and copayments
  • New or improved benefits
  • Coverage of new drugs or changes in drug formularies
  • Changes in provider networks
  • Changes in the service area (and whether you are excluded)

It’s important to review your ANOC carefully because it can affect your budget and your coverage. If you have any questions about the changes, be sure to contact your Medicare plan provider. They can help you understand how the changes will impact you and if you need to take any action.

If you decide that you would like to compare other options, you can reach out to us here or call us at 800-847-9680. We offer free and independent guidance on Medicare Supplement Plans and Medicare Advantage Plans with zero sales pressure.

How Can You Make Changes to Your Medicare Coverage?

The Annual Enrollment Period is when all Medicare recipients can change their Part C or Part D insurance plans. As mentioned, it runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year, and any changes you make in this period will go into effect on Jan. 1 of the following year.

In this period, you can:

  • Switch from Original Medicare (Parts A and B) to a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare
  • Enroll in or change your Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D)
  • Change Medicare Advantage Plans

Remember, if you are enrolled in Medicare Part B, you can also enroll in or change a Medicare Supplement Plan (Medigap Policy) at any time of the year.

You can make changes to your Medicare coverage either by yourself through the medicare.gov website or by contacting a Medicare broker who can assist you through the process.

The easiest way to find an independent Medicare broker near you is to contact Medigap Seminars. We have a team of brokers ready to help you understand your Medicare options and enroll in the best plan. We operate in all 50 states, so we can help you no matter where you live.

It’s in our best interest to provide our customers with unbiased advice. We are not tied to one insurance company, so we can offer objective advice to help you choose the proper coverage – all free of charge. You’ll see from our many testimonials that our customers have been more than happy with the service and advice they’ve received from us.

Summary

In summary, regardless of the kind of Medicare plan you are on, it is usually not mandatory to re-enroll or renew your plan every year. There are, however, some very good reasons why you might want to.

Make sure to pay close attention to the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) that you will receive from your provider in September of each year if you have a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan. This will lay out any upcoming changes to how much you have to pay, as well as to provider networks and your plan’s service area.

Changes like these, as well as changes to your health condition, can mean that you might be better off switching to another provider. Comparing your options against your current coverage at least once a year will help you to choose a provider that is the most cost-effective and convenient for your specific circumstances.

Matthew Claassen, CMT and CEO of Medigap Seminars Insurance Agency. Medigap Seminars is an award winning premier national Medicare Insurance Brokerage, ranked among the top in the U.S.A. Matthew is considered a leading national expert on Medicare and Social Security. Mr. Claassen is a distinguished member of the Forbes Business council, an invitation only organization of business leaders and entrepreneurs. He and his team have received awards from many of the countries largest insurance companies including Mutual of Omaha, Aetna, Humana, Cigna, United American, United Healthcare and others. His videos have become the most popular Medicare educational videos on YouTube with millions of views. As a financial analyst Matthew lead a team of researchers to win the 2009 Best Equity Research & Strategy Award from The Technical analysis magazine.

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