Medicare open enrollment season started on Oct. 15.
Through Dec. 7, Medicare beneficiaries can shop for new health insurance plans or change their existing plans. At the start of open enrollment, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services releases star ratings for thousands of health insurance plans across the nation.
Find out everything you need to know about how to buy a health insurance plan during open enrollment, from the top-rated insurance companies in your state to the difference between a Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plan.
Best Insurance Companies
Every year, U.S. News rates insurance companies across the country in order to help consumers find the best Medicare plans in their state. The methodology didn't change in 2020 -- but the winners did. Aetna earned the title of one of Alabama's Best Insurance Companies for Medicare Advantage Plans in 2020, along with VIVA Medicare. Kaiser Permanente remained strong throughout several states and in the nation's capital.
Learn more about 2020's new ratings (and best insurance companies) here.
What is Medicare Advantage?
Medicare Advantage plans offer an alternative to Original Medicare, in which health coverage is 100% provided by the government. Such plans offer a broad range of private health insurance plans with coverage that meets requirements set by Medicare, including basic hospital and health coverage that reflects Medicare Part A and B services.
Most Medicare Advantage plans offer prescription drug coverage, and some offer additional dental and vision coverage. The steps to choosing a plan during open enrollment are layered and include questions like whether or not you want to cap out-of-pocket health spending. (Original Medicare does not offer out-of-pocket maximums.)
Why change your Medicare plan? During Medicare's open enrollment period, you don't have to ditch your current Medicare plan in order to experience added benefits or more affordable coverage -- consumers have the option to modify their existing plan, as well. During this period, consumers can add Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage to their plans, buy supplement insurance and switch to another Medicare Advantage plan -- or opt out entirely. Changes made during open enrollment take effect Jan. 1 of the following year.
Choosing supplement insurance
Once you've enrolled in a Medicare plan with dual hospital and health coverage (otherwise known as Medicare Part A and B insurance), you can consider opting for Medicare Supplement insurance, as well. Supplement plans offer to cover the "gaps" in traditional Medicare plans (hence its alternate title, Medigap insurance), including coinsurance at skilled nursing facilities and copayments for primary care visits. The most comprehensive Medigap option that beneficiaries can choose is Plan F. Medigap enrollees can continue renewing their plan as long as they pay their monthly premium.