Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment is back

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP) is back – but it’s kind of a secret. The Medicare Advantage OEP is for people already enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans and it allows them to drop their plan to return to Original Medicare  – OR they can change to another Medicare Advantage plan.

The Medicare Advantage OEP runs from January 1 – March 31 every year.  So, people who missed out on the fall Annual Enrollment Period will have another opportunity to change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another –  OR to drop their Medicare Advantage plan, go back to “Original Medicare”, and get a Part D drug plan.

Each year, CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) puts out a “call letter” to advise insurance companies and interested parties what changes it is making (or allowing) to Medicare Advantage and Part D.   Much of the info is meant for policy wonks and insurance companies. But what I took notice of is the following:

Restoration of the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

The 21st Century Cures Act eliminates the existing MA disenrollment period that currently takes place from January 1st through February 14th of every year and, effective for 2019, replaces it with a new Medicare Advantage open enrollment period (OEP) that will take place from January 1st through March 31st annually. The new OEP allows individuals enrolled in an MA plan, including newly MA-eligible individuals, to make a one-time election to go to another MA plan or Original Medicare. Individuals using the OEP to make a change may make a coordinating change to add or drop Part D coverage.

The intro to the CMS document says the following:

On April 2, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule that updates Medicare Advantage (MA) and the prescription drug benefit program (Part D) by promoting innovation and empowering MA and Part D sponsors with new tools to improve quality of care and provide more plan choices for MA and Part D enrollees. In addition to creating opportunities for innovation and additional plan choices in MA and Part D, the final changes will result in an estimated $295 million in savings a year for the Medicare program over 5 years (2019 through 2023) – resulting in lower premiums or additional benefits.

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment is not the only change coming.

The info from CMS says they are cutting red tape and paperwork for Medicare Advantage plans.

Patients over Paperwork Initiative:

Earlier this year, CMS launched the “Patients Over Paperwork” Initiative, a cross-cutting, collaborative process that evaluates and streamlines regulations with the goal of reducing unnecessary burden, increasing efficiencies, and improving the beneficiary experience. The final rule furthers this initiative and would empower patients and doctors in making decisions about patient healthcare. Specifically, the final rule reduces regulatory burdens by:

  • Authorizing CMS to permit plans to use notice of electronic posting (and provision of copies upon request) to satisfy disclosure requirements for certain bulky documents to Medicare beneficiaries, thereby empowering patients with the information to make their own healthcare decisions;
  • Eliminating requirements that plans submit, in addition to their bids, similar and overlapping accounting information;
  • Making it easier for plans to communicate with beneficiaries by streamlining government review and approval of marketing materials used by plans; and
  • Eliminating enrollment requirements for healthcare providers and prescribers that bring value to Medicare Advantage and Part D beneficiaries.

Here is a link to the full document at the CMS website:

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