Key Takeaways

  • Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment (October 15 through December 7) is an opportunity to join, switch, or drop certain Medicare plans.  

  • Open Enrollment is a great time to re-evaluate how well your Medicare coverage fits your healthcare needs and lifestyle.

  • NCOA's Age Well Planner can help you make informed choices about Medicare and get the most out of your coverage.

You might be wondering, “Can I change my Medicare plan at any time?” or “When can you enroll in or change Medicare plans?” The changing color of the autumn foliage is a great reminder for Medicare’s Open Enrollment and that it's your annual opportunity to modify your healthcare options for the coming year.

During Open Enrollment (October 15 through December 7), you have the chance to join, switch, or drop Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D drug plans. The annual Open Enrollment period does not apply to Medigap or Medicare supplement plans. The choices you make during Open Enrollment could save (or cost) you hundreds of dollars out of pocket—and even impact your health. Here are three ways to ensure you’re well-prepared for Medicare's Open Enrollment.

Step 1: Review your Annual Notice of Change

Medicare plans change every year, so it’s important to re-evaluate how well your plan fits your needs annually. You should have recently received your plan’s Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) in the mail. It summarizes the changes in your plan’s cost and coverage in the coming year. Consider the following when reviewing your ANOC:

  • See if the cost or locations of services or drugs you take will change for the coming year. Are the plan’s network of providers and pharmacies conveniently located?
  • Assess your health care needs over the past year. Has your health status changed this year, requiring you to see a new specialist or receive a new set of services? Is your plan continuing to meet your needs?

Step 2: Assess your coverage needs

Once you’ve reviewed the ANOC and past year’s needs, then you can assess your coverage options for Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Part D. Here are a few things you should consider in order to answer the question “Should I switch Medicare plans during Open Enrollment?”

  • Are Medicare Advantage plans worth it? Are the providers and services you need included? This includes preferred doctors/specialists, treatments, and supplemental benefits. When comparing plans, be sure you understand the limitation on each benefit.
  • Does Medicare pay for prescriptions that matter to your health? Does the plan you’re considering cover all the drugs you think you will need in 2021? Be sure to ask about any restrictions, such as quantity limits, or whether your drugs require prior approval from the plan.
  • What out-of-pocket costs will you incur when you see a doctor, require a hospital stay, or pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy? Most plans have an annual out-of-pocket-maximum, but prescription drug costs are not included in that amount.

Step 3: Get trusted advice

What is the average cost of supplemental insurance for Medicare? Which type of care is not covered by Medicare? There are a lot of considerations when choosing a Medicare plan, but the good news is that you don’t have to do it alone.

  • NCOA's Age Well Planner is an educational tool from NCOA designed to make it easier for people with Medicare (and those planning for Medicare) to make informed and confident choices about their health coverage and to make the most of that coverage.
  • For help understanding your Medicare options and how to save money on costs, you can contact your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) by calling 877-839-2675 or visiting
  • People with Medicare also can compare 2021 coverage options and shop for plans using Medicare Plan Finder or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE.

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing delays and longer call waiting times, we encourage you to begin shopping early for coverage this Open Enrollment Period.