Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP): Here’s What You Need to Know

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP): Here's What You Need to Know

Do you want to change your Medicare plan? There are dedicated periods when you can opt for such changes. Some of these periods may vary depending on the type of your Medicare plan. For instance, for Medicare Advantage (also known as Medicare Part C) and Medicare prescription drug plans, there is an Annual Election Period (AEP) when you can register, change, or unregister a plan.

The OEP (Open Enrollment Period) for Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drugs begins from October 15 to December 7 — each year. Suppose you didn’t register for one of these plans when you first became eligible for Medicare (during your Initial Enrollment Period). In that case, the AEP is your chance to register or make these changes unless you qualify for a Special Election Period (SEP).

What is the Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP)?

The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP) is when seniors can change their health care coverage.

The AEP also applies to beneficiaries of Medicare Advantage plans. It also allows individuals on Part B to decide whether they want to stay with their plan or switch providers during this time.

Difference Between Medicare AEP vs. OEP

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is the time of year when Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their current plan. This enrollment window remains active from October 15 to December 7. Every September before the AEP begins, changes to plan benefits for the next year get released — allowing Medicare beneficiaries to make sure they choose the plan that best suits their needs.

With changes in Medicare Advantage and Part D benefits each year, premiums and prescription drug formulations can change.

In September every year, you’ll get an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC). It explains all the changes that will affect your plan in the coming year. In addition, AEP allows you to change if you are not happy with future adjustments to your plan.

What Can You Do During the Medicare AEP?

  • Switch from Original Medicare to an Advantage plan
  • Leave the Advantage (Part C) plan and return to Original Medicare
  • Choose to switch from one Advantage plan to another
  • You can get a Part D plan if you don’t have it yet,
  • Choose to Switch from One Part D Prescription Drug Plan to another.
  • Cancel your current Part D plan

All changes you make during the AEP will be effective from January 1 of the following year.

What Can You Do During the Medicare OEP?

What Medicare OEP allows you to do depends on what plan you’re referring to. For instance, Medicare Advantage OEP allows you to make changes only if you are already enrolled in Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage).

Medigap allows you to enroll at any point of time in a year. However, you have to answer a few health questions first. Medigap OEP allows you to enroll in Medicare Supplements without the need to answer any of those questions.

Making Changes After the Medicare AEP

Let’s say you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and want to switch to Original Medicare, Part A & B. You can easily do so during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP) — from January 1 to March 31 each year.

As you switch to Original Medicare during the period, you get the chance to enroll in Medicare Part D Prescription Plan until March 31. During the period, whether you choose Part D or not is entirely up to you. However, you will have to face a penalty if you wish to add it in the future. Your coverage will start from the first day of the month after the plan receives your filing form.

Medicare allows changes outside the standard enrollment period in certain situations that are often out of the beneficiary’s control via the Special Enrollment Period (SEP). The conditions that allow you to make changes include the following:

  • Medicare terminating its contract with your plan
  • Exiting your plan service area.
  • Receiving Medicare and Medicaid benefits altogether.
  • Eligible for additional assistance.
  • Living in, visiting, or moving from an institution such as a long-term care hospital or skilled nursing facility.

Coming to Part D, you may be fined for late enrollment (an amount added to your Medicare Part D premiums as long as you receive this coverage) if all of the following are true:

  • When you first qualify, you do not enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • You have no other reliable prescription drug coverage for 63 consecutive days or more.
  • You later decide to enroll on a Medicare drug plan.

FAQs Related to AEP

Some of the most common questions related to the Medicare AEP (Annual Enrollment Period), read them below:

Q: When does the Medicare Annual Election Period take place?

A: The Medicare Annual Election Period typically happens between October 15 and December 7.

Q: What are the two ways to activate my Medicare coverage during the Annual Enrollment Period?

A: The two ways to activate your Medicare coverage during AEP are; (i) through the Social Security office or (ii) via your healthcare provider.

Q: Can I change my mind after changing my enrollment?

A: Yes. If you change your mind, you can refile until October 15.

Q: Annual enrollment has expired, but I don’t like the new Medicare Advantage plan I joined. What can I do

A: Once the Annual Enrollment is over, you can choose an Open Enrollment Period that runs from January 1 and March 31.

The Open Enrollment Period was created after the Annual Enrollment Period for those dissatisfied with their Medicare Advantage plan.

During this period, you can easily switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare with a Part D plan or switch from a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) to another Medicare Advantage plan. Any change takes effect the month after it is submitted.

Q: Is annual enrollment the same as open registration for the health insurance market?

A: No. Open enrollment for the marketplace of health insurance is not open enrollment for Medicare.

The federal health exchanges were created to offer insurance options for uninsured or underinsured Americans who need health insurance coverage. However, you can only change your Medicare plan for annual registration (October 15-December 7).

And that’s all about Medicare AEP. The beneficiaries often don’t understand what plan to choose just because their existing plans had changed when the annual notice appeared. In that case, you may choose to do your research, but that will only consume your time and energy. 

Simpler Horizons Insurance Solutions make sure that you don’t go through such struggles every year. 

Consult our licensed insurance agents specializing in Medicare to find a suitable plan in one go.

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