How To Prepare for Medicare’s Open Enrollment

Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, giving Medicare-eligible beneficiaries the ability to make changes to, or enroll in, a Medicare Advantage plan or a stand-alone prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D). While Dec. 7 is the end of this period — also called the Annual Enrollment Period or Annual Enrollment Period — you can prepare for Open Enrollment ahead of time in order to confidently make health care decisions for the upcoming year.

1. Evaluate Your Current Needs

There are two main areas to evaluate your needs for the upcoming year: health needs and financial needs. Health needs can change from year-to-year, and listing out what you know about your current health situation can help you plan for the future and determine whether your current coverage is keeping up with your health reality. 

There are a few key questions you can answer ahead of Open Enrollment:

  • Do I have any new health concerns or a new diagnosis that will need evaluation or treatment?
  • Do I have any planned procedures or surgeries?
  • What medications am I currently taking?
  • Has my doctor recommended or prescribed any new medications?
  • Is there a new doctor or provider that I either want or need to see?

In addition, there are financial or lifestyle questions that could affect your health care coverage, such as:

  • Am I going to be traveling more (or less) in the upcoming year?
  • Am I moving soon, which could affect my provider network options?
  • Has my budget changed, or will it change, resulting in the need for more cost savings?

Writing down the answers to these questions can help you quickly identify if there’s a need to shop around during the Open Enrollment Period, well before it begins. 

2. Evaluate your current Medicare plan for changes

Every year in September, your current Medicare plan (Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement or Medicare Part D) will send you an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC). This letter explains changes regarding your coverage and/or costs for the ensuing year. 

This document will answer the following important questions for you:

  • How much is my plan premium?
  • Are my prescriptions covered?
  • Did my network change?
  • Is the plan still available to me?

Ultimately, this document can help you answer the most important question for the Open Enrollment Period: Do I need to change plans? The ANOC, coupled with your own health and financial analysis, can provide clear personal direction about whether you need to compare new plans during AEP. However, even if your ANOC does not include any major changes to your existing coverage, your personal evaluation could still merit Medicare plan comparisons during Open Enrollment.

LEARN MORE: Understanding Your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)

Additionally, offers a free handbook called “Medicare & You” which is updated ahead of each Open Enrollment Period. Going through this handbook helps you understand changes to Medicare, other enrollment periods and more. 

3. Compare Medicare Plans

There could be a multitude of reasons why your health care plan might not fit your needs anymore — and by conducting the analysis above, you should have a clear idea if that’s the case well ahead of the end of the Open Enrollment Period. Even if you’re just curious if there are other options out there, Open Enrollment provides the opportunity to compare plans side-by-side.

You have options for how to compare Medicare plans during the Open Enrollment Period:

  • Use resources through You can view a listing of Medicare plans in your area using the Medicare Plan Finder, or calling Medicare directly at 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227), TTY: 1-877-486-20480. The Medicare Plan Finder tool is updated on Oct. 1.
  • Contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
  • Work with an independent, licensed insurance broker.

Key Takeaway

Preparing for the Open Enrollment Period is important to understand your health care and financial needs going into the upcoming year. By taking time ahead of the start of AEP to ask yourself questions regarding health conditions, prescription medication, and changes in your lifestyle, you can make stress-free decisions for the upcoming year.

Share This Article:

Blog Categories

Ready to get Smartmatched?

Or speak to a licensed insurance agent