Would Medicare Open Enrollment Exist Under Medicare for All?

We’ve been thinking a bit about which of the more annoying pieces of Medicare might stick around if Medicare for All legislation is passed. Among them: Annual open enrollment and “Initial Enrollment Periods,” or IEPs.

First, some basic information. It’s currently Medicare open enrollment season, which runs from October 15 until December 7 each year. This is a time when many older Americans think about their past, current, and future healthcare needs. Many American seniors sign up for the coverage they need during their personal Initial Enrollment Period, which runs from three months before they turn 65 until three months after their birthday. The Open Enrollment Period is a time when seniors who missed either IEP can find a plan, but it is also a time when seniors can change their coverage to better accommodate new or predicted needs.

This begs the question: Under Medicare for All, would we still have these unnecessarily complicated sign-up processes? Like so much of healthcare legislation, it would depend on which pieces of Medicare our representatives prioritize.

Currently, Medicare covers most of the basic costs for healthcare, but many still pay extra for something called “Medicare Advantage.” These plans are approved public-private partnerships that offer supplemental care to seniors, like treatments for chronic illnesses and certain over-the-counter drugs.

Most older Americans enroll in Medicare parts A and B, but medically complicated Americans typically sign up for Medicare bundles. This often includes:

  • Medicare Part A (hospital insurance)
  • Medicare Part B (medical insurance)
  • Medicare Part C (supplemental health care)
  • Medicare Part D (drug coverage)

These different plans provide a constellation of coverage. For example, while Medicare Part B will cover urgent care visits, you’ll need Medicare Part D to pay for any resulting prescription drugs. This means that, while most Americans can get through the door of a medical service provider, they’ll often need to cover at least some type of cost on their own.

In an ideal world, Medicare for All would scrap this nonsense and provide free, open health care, regardless of an individual’s needs. But, before we get there, a partially subsidized single-payer system is the more likely scenario. It’s possible that the first iteration of Medicare for All automatically enrolls all Americans in something similar to Parts A and B, but residents are still required to pay monthly premiums (or out of pocket) to access services normally provided under Parts C and D. If this is the plan our representatives choose to pursue, we’ll continue to see annual Open Enrollment Periods until drug coverage and supplemental care is recategorized.

How Does Medicare for All Impact Seniors?

Medicare for All will impact each generation differently. If implemented, the youngest among us will have a different experience with healthcare altogether. They may be encouraged to seek out care when they need it, rather than pushing it off to prevent a large bill. Middle-aged Americans may see their taxes increase slightly, but they will have greater access to health care and no risk of medical debt.

But what will happen to the oldest Americans? Medicare for All, after all, is modelled off of the healthcare seniors already experience.

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, as well as certain younger people with disabilities. Many Americans see this as the pinnacle of health insurance in the United States. Depending on the type of Medicare a person has, the plan covers inpatient hospital stays, outpatient care, medical supplies, preventive services, and prescription drugs. So, if Medicare for All is implemented, will things change for those who already use Medicare?

The answer is complicated. Progressives are currently discussing several different Medicare for All plans. This is one of the program’s most common misconceptions: That there is only one option for Medicare for All implementation. This is a fluid plan that is designed to account for any and all American healthcare needs. If and when Medicare for All passes, it will always be subject to change.

That said, all iterations of Medicare for All would significantly benefit seniors. Under the proposed legislation, seniors would be enrolled in a government-run plan with broad access to doctors. They would have no premiums, deductibles, or out-of-pocket expenses.

Importantly, Medicare for All would eliminate Medicare Advantage plans, which are sold by private insurance companies to offer additional benefits, like dental and vision care. Most seniors cannot currently afford Medicare Advantage plans, which means Medicare for All would grant them new access to essential healthcare services.

Additionally, Senator Bernie Sanders has promised that Medicare for All would expand Medicare benefits to include eyeglasses and hearing aids. Many seniors cannot currently afford these devices. The inability to pay for updated eyeglasses and hearing aids significantly reduces a senior’s quality of life, as well as their safety. Introducing this coverage would benefit millions of American elders. (EDIT: While we previously discussed that medical alert system coverage might be included in Medicare for All talks, we haven’t seen anything recently that points to this as a priority.)

If eyeglasses and hearing aids are the first step toward Medicare for All, seniors should expect to see essential additional benefits. Importantly, legislators like Sanders have called to stop the pharmaceutical industry from taking advantage of America’s sick and elderly. Recently, there has been a call to cap American prescription drug costs at $200 per year. This would be a boon to America’s seniors, many of whom have supplemental insurance, Medicare Part D, to cover some of these costs.

For most seniors, the benefits of Medicare for All outweigh the disadvantages. Some seniors may be subject to higher taxes, but, in the next decade, this will become a slim minority of the demographic. Granting broader healthcare access is the only way to ensure equity amongst America’s oldest residents. The plan would both lengthen and improve American lives – regardless of age.

All About Medicare for All

Why do we want Medicare for All?

We’ll answer this with another question: What is Medicare for All in the first place?

According to Senator Bernie Sanders’ website, Medicare for All is an initiative to provide comprehensive health care to every person in this country – without the financial burden of out-of-pocket expenses. For the average person, this means no more dealing with private insurers, no more insurance premiums, no deductibles or co-payments, and the ability to receive medical care at any time – regardless of your income, budget, and illness.

So, why do we want Medicare for All?

This website will explore some of the popular positions for and against Medicare for All. We’ll answer some of the initiative’s most important questions, provide examples of where Medicare for All can help folks, and do a cost breakdown for how the United States can – and should – pay for this program. If you have any questions about universal healthcare and Medicare for All, feel free to drop us a line – we’d love to answer it for you.