Medicare Open Enrollment Made Easier

In all the fun of fall, don’t forget your important to-dos for the season—like signing up for Medicare. In 2019, open enrollment for Medicare coverage in 2020 is from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. During this time, you can make changes to your Medicare coverage. With the variety of plans, new updates for 2020 and general enrollment questions, it can all be a little overwhelming. But here’s an easy way to get a general understanding of what to consider during Medicare open enrollment for 2020.

Signing Up

If you are not already getting benefits from Social Security, and you’re over 65, you will need to sign up to get Medicare Part A and Part B. Note: Even if you have coverage through a current employer, and you’re 65, you have to sign up with Social Security to get Parts A and B. However, depending on the size of the employer (has to have 20 or more employees), you may be able to delay Parts A and B without penalty if you enroll later. In either case, if you delay enrolling in Parts A and B, you’ll have to pay a penalty.

If you already get benefits from Social Security, you’ll get Medicare Part A and Part B automatically when you’re first eligible and don’t need to sign up. Medicare will send you a “welcome to Medicare” packet three months before you turn 65.

Medicare Part A and B

Medicare Part A is hospital insurance. It covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care and some home health care.

Medicare Part B covers certain doctor’s visits, outpatient care, medical supplies and preventive services.


You usually don’t pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part A if you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes for a certain amount of time while working. It’s often referred to as “premium-free Part A.”

You do pay a premium each month for Part B, but it’s automatically deducted from your benefit payment from Social Security, the Railroad Retirement Board or the Office of Personnel Management. If you don’t get these benefit payments, you’ll get a bill. The premium amount in 2019 is $135.50/month, while the premium amount for 2020 is likely to change.

Supplemental coverage and Medicare Advantage plans will likely include a premium, depending on the type of coverage you choose.

Supplemental Coverage

If you want drug coverage, you can sign up for Medicare Part D, a prescription drug plan. These plans are offered by insurance companies and other private companies approved by Medicare.

To help pay your out-of-pocket costs in original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B), you can shop and sign up for a Medicare supplement insurance policy, also known as a Medigap policy. These policies are sold by private companies and help pay some of the healthcare costs that original Medicare doesn’t cover, like copayments, coinsurance and deductibles. Medigap insurance companies offer standardized plans identified in most states by letters A through D, F, G, H and K through N. All plans offer the same basic benefits, but some offer additional benefits. In Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin, Medigap policies are standardized differently.

What is Medicare Advantage?

An all-in-one alternative to original Medicare, Medicare Advantage is a bundled plan that includes Part A, Part B and usually Part D. Most plans also include benefits that original Medicare doesn’t cover, like vision, hearing and dental. Medicare Advantage is also known as Part C. While there can be a premium with a Medicare Advantage plan, it may also have lower out-of-pocket costs. And in most cases, you’ll need to make sure that your doctor is in the Medicare Advantage plan network, as it’s different than original Medicare.

What’s New for 2020

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, Medigap plans sold to people who are new to Medicare won’t be allowed to cover the Part B deductible. Because of this, you can’t get Medigap Plans C and F if you are newly eligible for Medicare on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

Also new for the year, Medicare Advantage plans may offer more telehealth benefits than original Medicare. In addition, these plans will have the option of covering expenses not previously considered, like paying for a cooking class as part of improving your diet. Check with your plan to see what additional benefits are offered.

Medicare enrollment can be daunting, so make sure to gather all the facts and the right resources to help guide you to coverage that’s appropriate for you in 2020.

For complete Medicare information and detailed plan descriptions, please visit


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