What’s the difference between Medicare’s AEP and OEP?

What’s the difference between Medicare’s AEP and OEP?

Feb 13 2024

Learn more about Medicare’s two important enrollment periods and what they mean for you.

Annual enrollment period, or AEP,  is an eight-week period that runs from October 15 to December 7. During this time, people eligible for Medicare can change their plan or sign up for a new one. Throughout AEP, you’re not limited by the number of times you can switch plans.  If you make a change but find a better plan, you can change again, as many times as you need to within the AEP.

Open enrollment period, or OEP, is a three-month adjustment period that runs from January 1 to March 31. During OEP, Medicare Advantage enrollees may make only one change to another plan. If you want to switch plans, you can change to another Medicare Advantage plan, or disenroll and return to Original Medicare. It’s an opportunity to find another plan that works well for you if the one you chose during AEP no longer meets your needs or isn’t what you expected.

If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can leave your plan, return to Original Medicare and buy a Part D prescription drug plan to supplement it. As of 2019, you also have the option to switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan during OEP.

Only one plan change during OEP is allowed each year. You can change your mind multiple times during AEP in the fall but can only switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan (or back to Original Medicare) once during OEP in the first quarter of the year.

Why is there an open enrollment period for Medicare?

You may wonder why Medicare has two enrollment periods. As Medicare is a complicated system, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by your options. Some beneficiaries don’t fully understand how their plan and network function until they begin using their benefits. Others may overlook certain important plan factors. Medicare’s OEP allows members to change their plan soon after it takes effect, rather than having to wait until the following year’s AEP.

If you’re thinking about changing your Medicare plan, research your options. Ask your friends and family how they feel about their plan. Seek the advice of experts who may alert you to benefits you hadn’t considered. And, don’t forget to write down important enrollment dates, so you’re ready to enroll once you’ve found the plan that’s right for you.


Still have questions?

There’s a lot to know about Medicare. If your questions weren’t answered by this article, you can find more information in our Medicare Learning Center. Browse free resources, watch videos, design your personal Medicare timeline, or connect with our team of Medicare experts.

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