Information you need to live a happy, worry-free retirement!
Originally published November 21, 2018, last updated December 20, 2018
Starting in 2019, a new open enrollment period will join the other Medicare enrollment periods.
When you hear “open enrollment,” you likely think of the period from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 each year when anyone with Medicare can join, switch, or drop a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan and Part D Prescription Drug plan for the following year. Starting in 2019, a new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) will let people already enrolled in MA make changes between Jan. 1 and March 31 each year.
One way to remember the difference between these open enrollment periods: the October-December one is for anyone with Medicare, while the January-March one is for only those already enrolled in Medicare Advantage.
What Can You Do in the New MA Open Enrollment Period?
In the new MA OEP, if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll have a one-time opportunity to:
During this period, you can’t:
You can only make one change during this window, and any changes you make will be effective the first of the month after the plan gets your request.
Are There Really Two Medicare-Related Open Enrollment Periods?
Yes. The new MA OEP is causing some confusion, because it sounds like the October-December OEP.
To confuse matters more, the October-December enrollment period is referred to by many names. While the public most commonly refers to it as open enrollment, it also gets called the Annual Election Period (AEP), Annual Enrollment Period (also AEP) and fall enrollment period. The government, depending where you look, calls it both Open Enrollment Period and Annual Election Period.
If it helps, you can refer to October-December period as Medicare OEP, and call the new January-March period the MA OEP.
Additionally, people new to Medicare who enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during their Initial Enrollment Period can change to another Medicare Advantage plan (with or without drug coverage) or go back to Original Medicare (with or without drug coverage) within the first three months of having Medicare. This, however, is not considered an "election period."
What Can You Do During Medicare Open Enrollment?
During the October-December OEP, anyone with Medicare can:
People who have Medicare plus a Medicare Supplement plan (also called Medigap) can make these changes above from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 each year, but they are not included in or impacted by the MA open enrollment period Jan. 1 through March 31. If you have a Medigap plan, you can try to switch Medigap plans at any time of the year, but companies may require underwriting to determine whether to accept the application and how much to charge you for the policy. Medigap plans are not guaranteed issue once you pass your initial six-month Medigap initial enrollment period in most cases.