Medicare regulations allow Medicare beneficiaries to switch coverage into and out of privatized plans — also known as “Medicare Advantage” — during the annual fall open-enrollment period. However, there is an exception: patients enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan have until the end of the day on Thursday, Feb. 14 to disenroll and switch back to Original Medicare.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that more than 13 million people enrolled in Advantage plans during the 2013 open enrollment period. First launched in the late 1990s as Medicare+Choice, and reformed under President George W. Bush, the plans are managed by private insurers, not the federal government.
Advantage plans generally offer lower co-pay expenses than Original Medicare. As with traditional HMO and PPO plans, they are structured around networks of healthcare providers. Patients that want to see outside specialists are required to pickup the additional costs. Many critics of the program argue that seniors with more serious or chronic illnesses are put in financial jeopardy by the managed care limitations.
Recent studies by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and a Harvard Medical School research team found evidence that sicker, higher-cost beneficiaries were the most likely to switch out of Advantage plans and back into Original Medicare, which doesn’t restrict the providers they can see or how often they can see them.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan this year, and you’re having second thoughts due to a change in your health, now is the time to make your final decision.