Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period occurs every year from October 15 to December 7.
If a person ever needs to make changes to their Medicare coverage, it can only be done during certain times of the year. This includes joining, switching, or dropping a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, as well as signing up for Original Medicare.
There are several Medicare coverage options to choose from, so knowing when you can make changes to your plan is important to ensure you have the right coverage for you. It will also help you avoid late enrollment penalties.
Read on to learn about the Medicare’s different enrollment periods, including the one time of year when all Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their plan coverage, which is called Annual Enrollment.
Medicare Annual Enrollment Period
The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) runs from October 15 through December 7 each year. During this time, you can:
· Join a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan
· Change from an MA plan back to Original Medicare
· Switch from one MA plan to another, including an MA plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to one that does (MA-PD), or vice versa
· Join a Part D plan
· Switch from one Part D plan to another
· Drop your Part D coverage completely
As long as the plan gets your request to enroll by December 7, your coverage will begin on January 1.
What is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period?
Additionally, there is a Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, which runs from January 1 through March 31. If you’re enrolled in an MA plan, this is a time you can:
· Switch to a different MA plan
· Drop your MA plan and return to Original Medicare
If making this change causes you to lose your prescription drug coverage, you may also join a standalone Medicare Part D plan at this time.
Note you can only switch plans once during this period. Your coverage starts the first day of the month after you ask to join the plan.
This period is only for people who already have a Medicare Advantage plan. If you have Original Medicare, you cannot make changes to your coverage outside of AEP unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
Other Medicare enrollment periods
The other primary enrollment periods include the Initial Enrollment Period, Special Enrollment Period, and General Enrollment Period.
Initial Enrollment Period
The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is when you first become eligible for Medicare.
If you’re newly eligible for Medicare because you turned 65, you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage and/or Part D plan during this time. Your IEP is the seven-month period that begins three months before your birthday and ends three months after. Depending on when you join the plan, your coverage will begin the first day of your birthday month or the first day of the month after you ask to join the plan.
If you qualify for Medicare due to illness or disability, your IEP begins 24 months after you get Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) disability benefits. You’ll be automatically enrolled in Parts A and B during month 25. As with those who age into Medicare, you can also use your IEP to sign up for a Part D or Advantage plan.
There are other times when you may qualify for an IEP, such as if you do or don’t have Medicare Part A but enrolled in Medicare Part B during the General Enrollment Period. Depending on your situation, you may be able to enroll in a Part D plan or an MA plan. This period runs from April 1 through June 30.
Special Enrollment Period
You may be able to make change to your MA and Part D coverage if certain things happen in your life, such as you:
· Lost your current coverage, including Medicaid or employer coverage
· Have an opportunity to enroll in other coverage
· Become dual eligible
· Become eligible for a Special Needs Plan (SNP)
There are several other situations when this could happen, and these chances to make changes are called Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs). Rules about when you can make changes, as well as the different types of changes you can make, are different for each SEP.
We describe 15 ways to qualify for an SEP here.
General Enrollment Period
The General Enrollment Period (GEP) also occurs between January 1 and March 31 each year. During this time, you can apply for Original Medicare if you didn’t do so during your IEP.
Your coverage would then begin on the first day of the month following your enrollment. Once you enroll, you’ll also be eligible to join a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan or an MA plan.
If you enroll in Original Medicare during this time, you’ll receive a Medicare Part D SEP to choose your prescription drug coverage.
Note that if you do not enroll in Medicare when you become first eligible and you wait until the GEP, you may be subject to late enrollment penalties.
What is the Medicare Disenrollment Period?
The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) was changed to the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period in 2019 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Technically, there is no disenrollment period for Medicare Advantage plans.
We explained what you can do during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period above.
How ClearMatch Medicare can help
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