A Treat for Seniors: Medicare Open Enrollment

A family wearing fancy dress, out trick or treating in North East England during halloween. They are standing at their neighbours and taking strawberry laces off a a plastic plate that she is holding.

Most people think of Halloween when October rolls around, but smart seniors know that it’s also the month when Medicare Open Enrollment starts. From Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, individuals using Medicare can make changes to their plans, ensuring the benefits in the next year fit their ongoing healthcare needs.

Open enrollment can seem overwhelming. Here is a primer on five key questions you should know for Medicare Open Enrollment.

Why does Open Enrollment happen?

Every year, Medicare health and drug plans are updated with changes to costs, network providers, and coverage. Medicare participants can review the new plans beginning in October and make changes to their own plans, so they get care that aligns with their needs and budgets.

What types of Medicare plans are there?

There are four types of Medicare plans: Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D.

Parts A and B make up Original Medicare and they cover hospital insurance (Part A) and medical insurance (Part B). If you’ve paid payroll taxes for at least 10 years there is no premium for Part A, but Part B is like private insurance because it has copays and deductibles.

Parts C and D are considered Supplemental Medicare. Part D is prescription coverage, to help reduce prices. Part C combines Parts A, B, and D into one package and often will include dental, vision, and hearing coverage. Both Parts C and D are provided through private insurers.

How do I know what plan I need?

Each person or family will have their own unique healthcare considerations. Some things to think about are whether your doctors are part of the plan’s network;  whether any needed treatments are covered; and whether the prescriptions you rely on are included in the plan. Don’t forget to think about out-of-pocket costs in addition to monthly charges. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also have a handout titled Things to Consider When Choosing a Medicare Plan (opens PDF). A good place to start is by reviewing your current plan to see what has been covered and what was missing.

What if I need help finding the right plan?

You can compare plans at You can also get trusted, unbiased, one-on-one assistance through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIP certifies local, objective insurance counselors in each state to help Medicare-eligible individuals, their families, and caregivers for free.

What if I miss the enrollment deadline?

The best advice is don’t miss it! Start researching early so you have plenty of time to register. You will likely be automatically re-enrolled with the same plan if it is still offered in your area.

A good Halloween costume often means lots of treats by the end of the night. A good start on renewing during Medicare Open Enrollment gives the best treat of all – good healthcare for the next year!