When is Open Enrollment for Medicare?

When is Open Enrollment for Medicare?

Mar 19 2024

Medicare’s open enrollment period runs from January 1 through March 31 — but what does that mean for you?

If you’re preparing to enroll or are already enrolled in Medicare, there are certain important dates to keep in mind. These dates include the annual election period (AEP) and the open enrollment period (OEP).

At first glance these two important time periods may seem the same, but they actually take place at different times of the year and serve very different purposes.

What’s the difference between AEP and OEP?

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

Only one plan change during this time frame 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 in the first quarter of the new year.

There are a few options for members during OEP. During the Medicare OEP, Medicare members can change their current Medicare Advantage plan to a new Medicare Advantage plan, or they can change their Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare.

Why is there an open enrollment period for Medicare?

With both AEP and OEP, you may wonder why Medicare has two enrollment periods throughout the year. As Medicare is a complicated system, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by your potential 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 on a physical calendar or place it can be easily seen anytime, so you’re ready to enroll once you’ve found the plan that’s right for you.

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