Nearly 64 million people use Medicare insurance for their healthcare needs. They are constantly bombarded with advertisements and marketing to get them to review different options. The closer we get to the Annual Enrollment Period, the more we see these advertisements.
Every year individuals enrolled in Medicare have the option to make changes to these plans. This Annual Enrollment Period or AEP occurs between October 15 and December 7.
During the AEP, Medicare beneficiaries can enroll, change, or disenroll from Medicare coverage. There isn’t a limit on how many times they can change. However, the last change will be the one that takes effect. All plan changes will begin on January 1.
The Annual Enrollment Period only affects Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans. The AEP is one of the few times individuals can change either of these coverages a year.
Many beneficiaries mistakenly think they must use the AEP to change their Medicare Supplement Plans. You can change a Medicare Supplement anytime, as long as you are healthy enough to pass medical underwriting.
There is a lot of confusion around the term Open Enrollment Period (OEP). Many mistakenly refer to the AEP as Open Enrollment. However, two distinct periods called Open Enrollment affect different Medicare plan options. Both Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans have an Open Enrollment Period, but each OEP works differently.
Open Enrollment for Medicare Supplements occurs when you first start your Medicare Part B or turn 65. Enrollment is available to any plan you’re eligible for during this time without needing medical underwriting. The Open OEP begins the first month of your Medicare Part B start date or the month of your 65th birthday and continues for six months.
Most individuals will have one OEP in their lifetime. However, someone that qualifies for Medicare before 65 will have a second OEP when they reach their 65th birthday.
There’s an Open Enrollment Period each year for Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan. The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period works slightly differently than the AEP.
During the MAOEP, beneficiaries enrolled in an active Medicare Advantage plan can make one change to their coverage. The MAOEP starts January 1 and continues through March 31. Once a beneficiary makes plan changes, the coverage change will begin on the first of the following month.
Beneficiaries can make the following changes during the MAOEP:
Since plan changes can only be made at specific times of the year, this is when you should evaluate your current coverage to other plan options. There are a few things to consider when comparing plan options.
The best way to review and compare plans is to work with a licensed insurance broker specializing in Medicare. They can access the programs in your area and provide you with a comparison. They can also educate and help identify the plans that meet your needs and help with Enrollment.
Most Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in traditional Medicare also have a stand-alone prescription drug plan. These beneficiaries can change drug plans or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan with drug benefits.
Affordable Care Act or Marketplace plans have an annual Open Enrollment period that also occurs in the fall. Annual Enrollment is for Medicare beneficiaries.
From time to time, a Medicare beneficiary will stay on a group or retiree plan. They can potentially make changes during the AEP. However, in many of these cases, upon leaving group or retirement coverage, they can enroll in a plan outside of the AEP.
Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans are calendar year contracts. Making changes requires a valid enrollment period. Outside of the AEP and MAOEP, changes can’t be made unless there’s a valid Special Enrollment Period (SEP).
SEPs are certain life events or situations, such as moving out of the plan’s coverage area or dual enrollment in Medicare and Medicaid. For individuals with Medicare and Medicaid or receiving help for prescription drugs and Medicare premiums, there’s a quarterly SEP.
Are you planning on taking advantage of Medicare AEP this year? Have you been meaning to adjust aspects of your coverage? Are you switching to or off of a Medicare Advantage Plan?