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Understanding the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

Sometimes people enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan because they are dazzled by the extra benefits and they don’t understand the specifics of how the plans work. Nor do they realize that their doctors aren’t in the network or they overlook other important factors. By being inundated with so much information during the Annual Enrollment period at the end of the year, people are are confused about what they have enrolled in. And sometimes they regret that decision.

But fortunately, there is a way to change a plan that simply isn’t working for one reason or another. This is called the Medicare Advantage OEP (Open Enrollment Period) and runs from January 1st to March 31st each year. After that period closes, Medicare Advantage plans lock in for the rest of the calendar year. This OEP allows people enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan can make a one-time change to:

  • Switch for one Medicare Advantage plan to another Medicare Advantage plan

  • Disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare, with or without a Part D drug plan

This Medicare OEP does not allow a change from one Part D plan to another.

There are so many enrollment periods for seniors, and they all have specific situation in which they can be used, it’s no wonder many people don’t realize when they can or should be making changes. Let me review them for you.

AEP: INITIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD When someone turns 65, they get an Initial Enrollment Period of 7 months to enroll in Medicare, 3 months before their 65th birthday, the birthday month and 3 months after.

AEP: ANNUAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD Beneficiaries also have an AEP from October 15th to December 7th. This period is for making changes to either your Medicare Advantage plan or your Part D drug plan.

(MA) OEP: MEDICARE ADVANTAGE OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD And now the Medicare Advantage OEP has been modified as of last year. This period runs from January 1st to March 31st as described above. But as you might know from the name, it only applies to people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans who want to make a change. And it can only be used once.

There is an additional Special Enrollment Period (without a name to confuse you even more) for people who are new to a Medicare Advantage plan. If you try one out for the first time and change your mind during the first year you are in the Advantage plan you can change back to Original Medicare with no underwriting (health questions). This is a one-time election.

Medigap Open Enrollment Period

This is the 6-month period of time from when you turn 65 and/or enroll in Medicare Part B where you can enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan with no underwriting (medical questions). This is a one-time election per beneficiary and only applies to Medigap plans.

No wonder you’re confused, right? Hopefully this helps clarify when you can or should make changes to your Medicare plans. If you are still confused, let us know. We are here to help answer your questions and/or help you make changes during those election periods.

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