The Difference Between Medicare AEP & OEP

Do you know the difference between the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, or AEP, and the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, or OEP? Unfortunately, some Medicare beneficiaries are unaware of the difference, and this lack of knowledge can often mean losing out on money and coverage. There are different time frames for these enrollment periods, as well as different things that  you can and cannot do during each period; knowing the difference between the two can help you be better prepared, so you can save money, and get the right coverage for you.

The Medicare AEP & What You Can Do

time for change written in scrabble letters
Medicare AEP is the only time you have the ability to change your Medicare plan to a better option.

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is an 8-week period that occurs every year from October 15th through December 7th, and is the time of year when you can make changes to your current Medicare plan. You will receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) letter in the mail in September, which will explain all the changes that will be made to your current plan’s coverage and costs for the following year; make sure you review this so you know whether your plan will still work for you in the new year. 

If you do decide that you want to change your plan, you also need to know what changes you can make during the AEP. You can:

  • Switch from Original Medicare (Parts A and B) to a Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare, as well as enroll in Part D or a Medicare Supplement Plan alongside Original Medicare when you switch
  • Switch your current Medicare Advantage Plan to a different one
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that includes drug coverage to one that does not
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that does not include drug coverage to one that does

If you do choose to make any changes and switch to a new plan, your new plan will go into effect on January 1st. 

The Medicare OEP & What You Can Do

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP) is a little more complicated than the Medicare AEP, because there are two different Open Enrollment Periods: one for Medicare Supplement Plans and one for Medicare Advantage Plans.  

Medicare Supplement OEP

The Medicare Supplement OEP is a 6-month period that begins the month you turn 65 years old, and continues through the following 5 months. This is the time when you have guaranteed issue, meaning you can buy a Medicare Supplement Plan without having to answer any health questions. You do have the option to enroll in a Medicare Supplement Plan at any point during the year, but you will be asked questions regarding your health, which can result in denial of coverage, or a higher premium rate for the plan. 7 white doors in a line

There are 10 different Medicare Supplement Plans to choose from, so what happens if you choose one and then decide that it’s not for you? Can you change it? Yes, you can make as many changes as you want during your Medicare OEP, as long as you are still within the 6-month window; whatever plan you ultimately choose will go into effect the 1st of the following month. 

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment 

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period starts on January 1st and runs through March 31st annually. Plans will go into effect the following month. During this time you can:

  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another
  • Cancel your stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage Plan and return to Original Medicare
  • Enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan

If you disenroll from your Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch to Original Medicare, and then enroll in a Medicare Supplement Plan alongside Parts A and B if you wish to save more money. If you switch within the first 12 months of joining your Medicare Advantage Plan, you can purchase a Medicare Supplement Plan without underwriting. 

Medicare can be confusing: there are multiple enrollment periods, and a lot of choices to make when it comes to coverage, which is why it’s important to seek the help of an agent who can help make sense of it all. EZ offers licensed agents who can advise you of all the different options you have, including ways to get more (or less) coverage, and save as much money as possible. No obligation. To get free instant quotes for plans that cover your current doctors, simply enter your zip code in the bar on the side, or to speak to a local licensed agent, call 888-753-7207.

Medicare AEP Is Over, What If You Missed It?

Every year from October 15 to December 7 is Medicare’s Annual  Enrollment. This is the time you can switch from Medicare to Medicare Advantage, and vice versa. You can also change your Medicare Advantage or Part D plans.

Just because Medicare OEP is over, does not mean you do not have other options to help you save money.
Just because Medicare OEP is over, does not mean you do not have other options to help you save money.

Time flies and things happen, and before you know it, open enrollment has ended. You may have not gotten the chance to look over plans, change plans to meet your needs, or did not have enough time to research your options. But luckily if you missed open enrollment, there are still some options for you to choose from.

Medicare Advantage OEP

Beginning 2019, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period runs from January 1 to March 31 every year. During this period, you can switch Medicare Advantage plans, or disenroll from their Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare. If you choose to switch back to Original Medicare, then you can enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan. Do some research to make sure whichever way to choose to go that the network covers your doctors.

Medicare Special Enrollment Period, SEP

If you missed the open enrollment period, you can qualify for Medicare Special Enrollment Period. Here are the circumstances to qualify for SEP:

    • Moved out of plan’s service area
    • Lost employer-based health insurance
    • Used to be eligible for Medicaid and now you are not
    • Your plan is ending its contract with Medicare
  • Moving back to US after living outside of the US

5 Star Plans

In 2010, the Health care Reform Law created a star rating system for Medicare Plans. One star being poor, and 5 stars being the best. Every fall the ratings are updated for these plans. Beneficiaries can enroll in a Medicare Advantage 5-star plan once a year from December 8 to November 30th.

Medicare Supplement Plans

Medicare Supplement Plans can help you pay for Medicare Part B bills that may be hard for you to pay. These plans are sold by private insurance companies, and you can always consider buying one as long as you are 65 years old. There are 10 different supplement plans to choose from, some covering more than others. If you consider buying one outside of the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period (the 6 month period beginning the month you turn 65), then you may be subject to paying more for pre-existing conditions.

Another option you can take is to ask your doctor for the generic, cheaper brand of the precritions you take.
Another option you can take is to ask your doctor for the generic, cheaper brand of the precritions you take.

Change Your Drugs

If you missed the chance to find a better plan to cover your prescriptions, then you can always talk to your doctor about cheaper drug options. The Medicare Modernization Act requires that Medicare offer at least two drugs in each category class. What this means is that you can talk with your doctor and ask to take the alternative drug that costs lower.

Missing the Medicare open enrollment period can cause a lot of stress. EZ.Insure offers agents within your region to help you and answer any questions you may have. Our agents are highly trained to provide you the best option for your needs. The agents will provide you with Medicare Supplement quotes from top carriers in your area, and even help you sign up at no cost. To get quotes, enter your zip code in the bar above, or to speak to an agent directly, email, or call 888-753-7207. Do not worry if you missed the OEP, we can help you get on the right track.