Medicare Annual Enrollment Period 101

When is the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period? Get answers to this and other most-asked Medicare Annual Enrollment Period questions, including how plan types like Medicare Advantage and Medigap are involved.

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Medicare Annual Enrollment Period Takeaways

  • The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)  occurs from October 15 through December 7 yearly.
  • Changes made to Medicare coverage during AEP take effect on January 1 of the following year.
  • During AEP, you can enroll in Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans for the first time or change existing coverage

Healthcareplans.com is your resource for Medicare information. We’re here to make the process of Medicare enrollment simpler by providing all the information you need about Medicare’s various enrollment periods. This article focuses on the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), including when AEP occurs each year, what you can do during AEP, and how it is different from the Open Enrollment Period which it is sometimes confused with.

What is the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)?

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) occurs each year from October 15 through December 7. During this time, Medicare enrollees can review and make changes to their Medicare coverage which will go into effect on January 1 of the following year.

What is the Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP)?

The term Open Enrollment Period is often used interchangeably with the Annual Enrollment Period, but the OEP (sometimes known as the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period or MAOEP) is actually an entirely different period. OEP lasts from January 1 to March 1 each year; this period is for switching Medicare Advantage plans or for leaving Medicare Advantage and switching to Original Medicare. This period exists so that Medicare Advantage enrollees can make a final check of their impending year’s coverage and make a small change; it should not be treated as a time for enrolling in a new plan.

What is the difference between AEP and OEP?

Not only do the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) and the Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP) occur at different times—AEP from October 15 to December 7 each year, OEP from January 1 to March 31—they serve different purposes. OEP is for making changes to existing Medicare Advantage coverage, while AEP is for more comprehensive Medicare enrollment.

What can I do during AEP?

During AEP you can change your existing coverage or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time. AEP is the perfect time to shop around for different plans to find the coverage that best fits for your needs—and your budget. You can work directly with an insurance provider, or use an insurance agency like healthcareplans.com to help you find the coverage you need.

During AEP, you can sign up for the first time or switch coverage involving the following types of plans:

  • Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans. Offered by private insurance providers, Medicare Advantage plans offer all of the coverage of Original Medicare (Parts A and B) plus additional benefits that vary depending upon the provider and the specific plan. Additional benefits of Medicare Advantage Plans may include coverage of benefits not covered by Original Medicare, including dental, vision, or hearing coverage.
  • Medigap (Medicare Supplement) plans. Medigap policies are designed to help with Medicare’s deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. Medigap policies are designed to work in concert with Original Medicare and are not available for those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plans. Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage works in concert with Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. There are many Medicare Part D plans available—different plan options cover different drugs, so be sure that when you enroll, you make sure your needed prescriptions are covered by the plan you choose
  • Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans (D-SNP or DSNP). If you are eligible for both Medicare and state medical plan assistance via Medicaid, you can enroll in a Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan, abbreviated D-SNP or DSNP. DSNPs may cover the entire premium cost of Medicare, depending on eligibility and other factors.
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How do I enroll in a Medicare plan during AEP?

Using a website like Healthcareplans.com can help you research and compare available Medicare Advantage, Medigap, Medicare Part D, and Medicare Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans. But whether you work with a private insurance provider or an agency like ours that collaborates with various providers to connect customers with multiple options from multiple providers, you’ll need to call or enroll online during the period between October 15 and December 7. 

Some of the benefits of working with Healthcareplans.com include the following:

  • US-based and US-licensed agents combine comprehensive Medicare knowledge with excellent customer service you won’t find from an overseas call center.
  • Plans are available from as many as eight national insurance companies, allowing our agents to provide unbiased advice on which plan is best for the customer.
  • Online plan browsing shows you exactly what’s available where; and if you don’t want to wait on the phone during the busy enrollment period, you can enroll online.

Do I have to re-enroll in a Medicare plan every year?

The short answer is no. If you’re enrolled in Original Medicare and happy with your benefits, you’re good to go. The reason to make changes during the Annual Enrollment Period is if you need more or different coverage, especially the additional benefits provided by a Medicare Advantage (Part C), prescription drug (Part D), or Medigap plan.

However, some private insurance providers occasionally retire plans. If you have a Medicare Advantage or other private insurer plan that will no longer exist in the following year, you’ll need to find a new policy to maintain coverage.

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While we hope that this article has helped to provide all the information you need to know about Medicare AEP, the differences between AEP and OEP, and the different types of plans you can enroll in during AEP, sometimes it’s best to speak to an expert. Get in touch with our sales team by calling 1-855-200-9406. We’re especially happy to help you navigate the Annual Enrollment Period from October 15 - December 7 each year—during AEP we’re open seven days a week from 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Helpful resources:

https://www.senior65.com/medicare/open-enrollmenthttps://www.cms.gov/priorities/key-initiatives/medicare-open-enrollment-partner-resourceshttps://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/what-to-know-about-the-medicare-open-enrollment-period-and-medicare-coverage-options/ https://www.cms.gov/medicare/enrollment-renewal/special-needs-plans/dual-eligible https://www.medicare.gov/basics/get-started-with-medicare/get-more-coverage/joining-a-plan
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