Do I Need to Renew Medicare Every Year?

Although there are a few exceptions, Medicare plans generally renew each year automatically. This is true for original Medicare as well as Medicare Advantage, Medigap, and Medicare Part D plans.

This article details how Medicare plans renew annually and when to consider signing up for additional Medicare coverage.

Does Medicare automatically renew each year?

Once you enroll in Medicare, your plan(s) will usually automatically renew. This is intended to cut back on paperwork you’d have to submit to Medicare. Let’s take a look at what automatic renewal is like for each aspect of Medicare:

  • Original Medicare. If you have original Medicare, your coverage will automatically renew at the end of each year. Because original Medicare is a standard policy across the country, you won’t have to worry that your coverage will be dropped.
  • Medicare Advantage. Your Medicare Advantage, or Medicare Part C, plan will automatically renew unless Medicare cancels its contract with the plan or your insurance company decides not to offer the plan you’re currently enrolled in.
  • Medicare Part D. Like Medicare Advantage, your Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan should automatically renew. Exceptions would be if Medicare does not renew the contract with your insurance company or the company no longer offers the plan.
  • Medigap. Your Medigap policy should automatically renew. Even if policy changes mean that your insurance company no longer sells a Medigap plan, you can usually keep your plan. However, others entering the Medicare market may not be able to purchase the Medigap policy you have.

Even though Medicare plans automatically renew, this doesn’t mean you should skip the step of evaluating your coverage each year. Later, we’ll cover some additional tips on how to make sure your plan is still right for you.

What is a non-renewal notice?

The non-renewal notice should let you know if you will be consolidated into another plan that is very similar to your previous plan. Insurance companies call this “mapping.”

If you don’t want to be mapped into a new Medicare Advantage plan, you can take one of the following steps:

  • search for and choose a new plan during the annual election period
  • do nothing and let your Medicare coverage revert to original Medicare by default (you will need to purchase a Medicare Part D plan if your previous Medicare Advantage plan had drug coverage)

If a plan sponsor isn’t renewing its contract, you should be notified of alternative Medicare Advantage plans that are available in your region.

How do I find the best plan for me?

Choosing the best plan is a very individualized process. You probably have unique health needs, prescriptions, and wellness and budget concerns. Some of the ways to find the best plan(s) for you include:

  • Review your healthcare spending from last year. Did you quickly meet your deductible? Have more out-of-pocket costs than expected? Start taking any new medications? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you may need to re-evaluate your coverage for the coming year.
  • Consider your must-haves. Create a list of doctors that you must have in your network, medications you need coverage for, and how much you can afford to spend. This can help you evaluate your current plan and look for any new plans that may better meet your needs.
  • Carefully review your annual notice of change. Make sure to read this notice carefully. Think about how the changes may affect you positively or negatively. Even if your plan hasn’t changed dramatically, it’s still a good idea to shop around. Plans can change significantly from year to year, so it’s worthwhile to spend some time comparing different Medicare plans.

Sometimes, your current plan is still the best. But evaluating plans against your current one can ensure you have the best coverage for you.

If you do choose to switch plans, you can sign up with your new plan during the designated enrollment period. Signing up with the new plan will unenroll you from your previous plan when your new coverage starts.

What enrollment periods should I be aware of?

Just as your insurance company is required to notify you by a certain time of changes, you will have time periods when you can sign up for Medicare Advantage (or go back to original Medicare) or switch your plan.

Initial enrollment

The initial enrollment period is the 7-month time period where you can sign up for Medicare. This includes the 3 months before your 65th birthday, the month of your birthday, and the 3 months after you turn age 65.

If you’re already receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration or Railroad Retirement Board, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare. However, if you aren’t, you can sign up through the Social Security Administration.

Special enrollment period

You can also qualify to make changes outside of a typical Medicare enrollment period during a special enrollment period. This is usually when you lose coverage due to changes in employment, if you move to a different service area, or move into or out of a nursing home.

When you want to make a change in your Medicare coverage, you can visit the plan search tool on Medicare.gov, call Medicare at 800-MEDICARE, or contact the plan directly.

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