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2 Key Steps for Open & General Enrollment for Expat Seniors

Senior couple reviewing documents

Open Enrollment Period: January 1st -March 31st

Open Enrollment is from January 1st to March 31st every year, and it is an odd enrollment period – even by Medicare standards. In Open Enrollment Period (OEP) people can:

  1. Switch Medicare Advantage Plans with no penalty
  2. Drop Medicare Advantage plan coverage and return to Original Medicare, and/or
  3. Add a standalone Part D drug plan if you drop Medicare Advantage coverage.

The same period is also General Enrollment for people who have not yet signed up for Part B. General Enrollment allows people who have elected not to participate in Part B to sign up, and subsequently, select a Medicare Advantage Plan if they would like from April 1st -June 30th. This year if you sign up for Part B during General Enrollment, your coverage can begin the next month. Until this year there was a minimum 3-month waiting period.

First – if you do not have Part B – get it.

I can’t tell you how many people aged 65-70 who tell me that they don’t need Part B – they are healthy and plan to stay offshore forever. And I also can’t tell you how many people that I talk with who are 70+ and are trying to figure out how to get Medicare Advantage, because they need care and want to go home to get it. Part B has a 10% penalty for each 12-month period that eligible Seniors do not elect to participate. (This year the cost of part B dropped from $170.10 per month to $164.90 – and everybody’s Social Security got a nice bump from inflation. )

This Part B penalty is permanent, increases with cost increases in Part B (almost 15% in 2022) and can be ruinous later in life – when folk’s financial resources are weakest. If you don’t have Part B and want a sobering look at what it will cost later if you don’t participate now, check out our most recent blog on the subject. I get too many calls from people looking for a great Advantage Plan to support their time outside the US, only to bring it to an abrupt end when I ask about Part B. Please, please get Part B. If you missed your Initial Enrollment Period, you have until March 31st – and if you don’t the door closes until 2024.”

Second – if you have an Advantage Plan and haven’t comparison shopped for a few years – learn how to use, or give us a call.

I recently gave an educational program at our church about how to sign up for a account, and then how to use it. is a great tool for communicating with Medicare and is one of the best ways to compare Advantage, Drug Plans and Supplements. We will be giving an instructional webinar on Friday March 10th at 11:00 ET. Drop us a note at for an invitation, or follow us on Facebook.

We are in the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) when you can switch policies with no penalties or hassles. We have access to great analytics for Plans all over the US. I would estimate that for 60% of the people that we talk to, they end up not switching. But all Advantage Plans are not created equal when it comes to coverage outside the US – called worldwide coverage. Some Advantage Plans do not have any worldwide coverage at all, and the terms of the coverage that exists can vary widely.
Please join us for the webinar next week if you do not have a Medicare .gov account. If you are in Medicare, you need an account, and it is a great tool during OEP. Take a minute on (or let us do it) to evaluate your policy and make sure that you are getting the best coverage available – then go have fun. We are all about the empowering of Seniors – so let’s make sure that you have a account and that you know how to use it. If you want some help with your Medicare, we are happy to help you – give us a call. Don’t let OEP go by without taking a look at what you have, and be sure that you know what you have for Medicare and what the alternatives are.

Wes Chapman

Wes Chapman was educated in Mexico and Spain, then had a 20-year career in investment banking in Latin America, finishing with 10 years as region director for Oppenheimer in Latin America. He spent the last 20 years in healthcare, focused on patient-centric, value-based care. He started Fortende to address the unmet needs of Medicare beneficiaries spending time outside the U.S.

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