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Medicare: What You Need to Know This Year


Navigating Medicare enrollment is never simple. And for some of us, that means we throw up our hands and don’t shop around: Research by the National Council on Aging found that nearly half of Medicare recipients have never shopped around for better coverage.

But experts say that you can save a lot of money by comparing Medicare plans.  “There’s no doubt that a lot of seniors are in the wrong plan,” says Ross Blair, the CEO of, a site that compares Medicare plans.  “A lot of them could save hundreds of dollars a year by switching.”  Some great resources to help you start comparing Medicare plaarison tool and rating system;, which gives you access to local counselors to help guide you through Medicare choices;, which provides local referrals and information.

You should also be aware of two changes to Medicare enrollment this year:

  • Medicare enrollment starts earlier and ends earlier. As of October 15, eligible recipients can begin joining a new Medicare plan or change from the one they’re currently in, but you can only enroll through December 7th this year. (Last year, the enrollment period ran from mid-November through the end of the year.)
  • There’s year-around enrollment for some. There is one major exception to this enrollment period:  You can switch to a five-star Medicare plan (these are the highest rated plans) at any point this year beginning on December 8th and going through November 30, 2012.  But don’t wait to enroll – not everyone will have access to a five-star plan.


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About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.