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
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.
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.
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.