Open Enrollment is Now Much Easier


Nancy had been counting down the days to her retirement for a couple of years now. As the day got closer, she turned in her retirement paperwork to human resources, enjoyed the party her co-workers threw for her, and envisioned all of the lovely things she was going to do now that she no longer had to go to work.

One of the first things Nancy did upon retiring and turning 65 was signing up for Medicare. A year has passed, and she realizes now that she wants to make some changes to her coverage. When Nancy signed up last year, she didn’t find Medicare’s Plan Finder tool to be very helpful, but things are about to change for Nancy and the more than 60 million people with Medicare coverage!

Open enrollment for 2020 is right around the corner (October 15 -December 7, 2019), and after ten years of having a difficult tool that didn’t work well on mobile phones, Medicare has finally made its online Plan Finder more robust and easier to use!

It’s Now Easier to Compare Coverage Options and Shop for Medicare Health and Drug Plans

The Medicare Plan Finder, the most used tool on, helps users learn about different options and select coverage that best meets their healthcare needs. It allows users to shop and compare Medicare Advantage and Part D plans with ease.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) noted that they improved their online Medicare tools to meet the needs of a growing number of tech savvy beneficiaries. According to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, “We want consumers to have the best tool possible when open enrollment begins on October 15.”

These are some of the changes you should expect to experience with the updated tool, which were implemented based on feedback from user testing conducted by CMS:

• The new system offers information that is complete, understandable, and in plain language;

• The new system provides recipients and their caregivers with a personalized experience that is more mobile friendly and optimized for use on smart phones, tablets, and personal computers;

• It walks users through the Medicare Advantage and Part D enrollment process from start to finish and allows them to view and compare many of the supplemental benefits that Medicare Advantage plans offer;

• It makes it easier for beneficiaries to compare pricing between Original Medicare, Medicare prescription drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policies;

• It lets you compare up to three drug plans or three Medicare Advantage plans side-by-side;

• You can use it to plan costs and benefits, including which Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits;

• It helps users to build a personal drug list and find Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage that best meets their needs;

• It includes a webchat option to help users get on-the-spot support.

CMS offers several online tools to aid with learning the new Plan Finder, including videos and tip sheets. As part of a phased rollout, both the old and new Plan Finder will be available and run in parallel through the end of September 2019, to allow time for users to try out and become familiar with the new version.

People with Medicare can continue to have access to paper copies of the Medicare & You handbook and be able get help over the phone using 1-800-MEDICARE.

A Good Reason to Consider Making Changes this Year

Nancy, in our example, and other Medicare recipients will likely consider making changes this year. This is because, in 2019, nearly 600 Medicare Advantage plans were added, with average premiums declining to their lowest levels in 6 years. Also, over the past three years, average Part D basic premiums have decreased by 13.5 percent, from $34.70 in 2017 to a projected $30 in 2020, saving beneficiaries about $1.9 billion in premium costs over that time!

Since Medicare health and drug plan costs and covered benefits can change from year to year, it is wise for those with Medicare to look at their coverage choices and use the Plan Finder tool to decide on the options that best fit their current healthcare needs. Those with Medicare who do not wish to change their current coverage do not need to re-enroll in order to keep their current coverage.

Are You Eligible for Medicare But Have Not Enrolled? Failing to Do So Can Cost You!

Failing to enroll in Medicare during the initial enrollment period can trigger costly consequences, both in terms of medical coverage and money.

People who miss their initial enrollment period must pay a delayed enrollment penalty of 10% of the basic Part B premium for every 12 months they were eligible to enroll but did not. In addition, that person would have to wait until the next general enrollment period, which runs from January through March each year, to sign up for Medicare Part B with coverage beginning the following July 1.

For more details on how to sign up for Medicare, visit

Medicare Doesn’t Cover Nursing Homes – Now is the Time to Plan for Long-Term Care

As we grow older, considerations towards our long-term care grow larger. According to research, 70% of us will need some sort of long-term care in the future, but Medicare will NOT cover the costs.

Medicare Part A provides coverage for short-terms stays in skilled nursing facilities, but there is a caveat. The coverage is only for short-term rehabilitation for people who continue to improve, or for those who need skilled nursing care such as assistance with complex wound dressings, tube feedings, or rapidly changing health status.

If you only require custodial care, such as help with bathing, dressing, and eating, that is considered long-term care and not healthcare, and is not covered by Medicare.

If you or a loved one is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please call us to make an appointment for an initial consultation:

Medicaid Planning Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Medicaid Planning Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Medicaid Planning Rockville: 301-519-8041
Medicaid Planning DC: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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