Ask NAPCA Column #7 

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period is ongoing. We chose several questions about this subject and want to share the information in this month’s column. We added one question to address the areas where many people are confused about the COVID-19 vaccine more clearly. If you have additional questions on Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace, Social Security Retirement Benefit, Supplemental Security Income, or COVID/Flu vaccination, there are 3 ways you can reach us today:
Call: (English) 1-800-336-2722, (Chinese Mandarin) 1-800-683-742, (Chinese Cantonese) 1-800-582-4218,
(Korean) 1-800-582-4259, (Vietnamese) 1-800-582-4336
Mail: NAPCA Senior Assistance Center, 1511 3rd Avenue, Suite 914, Seattle, WA 98101

<Q1> Why do I need to check my Medicare plan every year during the Open Enrollment Period and how do I check my plan?

If you don’t take any action, your existing plan will be renewed for 2024. But that could come with cost and benefit changes. Your plans’ coverage may change, and your healthcare needs may change, too. This is why it’s important to check up on your current plan during the period even if you’re happy with your current plan. Your plan will send you a “Plan Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC) each fall. If you don’t get this important document, contact your plan. The ANOC includes any changes in coverage, costs, and more that will be effective in January. Review any coverage changes including drug formulary. Think about any changes to your healthcare and/or prescription drug needs, and healthcare expenses to decide whether the plan will continue to meet your needs in the next year. Just remember to do so before Medicare Open Enrollment ends on December 7.

<Q2> I signed up for a Medicare Advantage plan during my Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) this year, but I would like to change it to Original Medicare because I plan to travel to different states throughout the next year. How can I switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare?

You should contact your current plan to cancel your enrollment and call MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) during the Medicare Open Enrollment period. The change will take effect on January 1 of the following year. Original Medicare does not provide any additional benefits such as drug coverage, dental, or vision you may have with your Medicare Advantage plan. If you make this switch and you want drug coverage, be sure to sign up for a Medicare stand-alone prescription drug plan (PDP). If you do not, and you decide to sign up for Part D coverage later, you may need to wait for another year until the next Open Enrollment Period and face a penalty for late enrollment. You may also want to consider purchasing a Medicare supplemental insurance policy, known as Medigap, that helps to pay your cost-sharing requirements under Original Medicare. You also can switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (January 1 to March 31). 

<Q3> If I make a mistake when I change my coverage during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, what can I do to fix it?

If the Medicare OEP is ongoing: you can simply pick a different plan instead (by the December 7 deadline) and the new choice will take effect on January 1.

If the Medicare OEP has ended: you can use the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MAOEP, Jan 1~Mar 31) to pick a different Advantage plan or switch to Original Medicare and a Part D plan. If you’ve enrolled in a stand-alone Part D plan that doesn’t fit your needs, your options are more limited. Changes to these plans can generally only be made during the fall Medicare OEP.

<Q4> I have already received COVID-19 vaccines and the last vaccination was in January 2023. Do I still need to get another COVID-19 vaccine?

Like the Flu virus, the virus that causes COVID-19 has changed over time. A new vaccine has been developed and was approved by the FDA on September 11, 2023. The new vaccine provides better protection against the currently prevalent COVID-19 variant and is available for administration starting in late September 2023. If your last vaccine was before September 2023, please get this new vaccine. You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, including a Flu vaccine, at the same visit. Possible side effects after getting vaccinated are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines.

National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of AANHPI older adults and their families.  We operate a NAPCA Senior Assistance Center for Older Adults and Caregivers and is available in 5 different languages.   

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